Category Archives: Zombie Story

3.03 Sean

“Hi, Daddy.  I’m hungry,” Max said with a smile.

Tookes woke up with a start as a huge grin spread across his face.  “Good morning Max!” He exclaimed.  “I’m happy you’re awake!  How do you feel?”

“I’m fine, my leg hurts, and these bugs are noisy.  They talk and talk.  Steve says sorry he scared you.  He told me you were here all night watching me.”

Victor looked Max over and said, “I wouldn’t leave you when you were sick.  I love you buddy, but what you did was very naughty!  You should never leave the house without telling a grown up.”

“But I had to go.  My bugs were dying, and I needed Steve’s bugs to make mine better.  Jason gave all his to Steve, and then I told Steve to bring them all and give them to me.”  Max held out his hand to his father, who took it in his own.

“You told Steve to bite you?  Why would you do that?”

“Thats the only way to get his bugs into me, Dad.  The bad men that took me from here gave me a shot.  My bugs took the medicine they gave me to make me sleep.  They said that because they did that, it was hurting them, but they needed me to be awake to escape.”

“Max, never do that again without talking to me.”  Victor said, filing that bit of information away.  “If you told me they were sick I would understand.  I would try to help,  but I was so afraid you were sick.  I was very scared.”

“I’m sorry Dad.  Can I have some food?”

“Sure buddy, I’ll go get you a cheese sandwich.  Gramma made cheese last week, I bet she saved some for you.”

“Ok. Thanks, you’re the best Dad ever.  Can you send Mr. John in here while you get my sandwich?”

“Sure thing, Maxmonster.  You’re the best little boy ever.”

Victor walked out of the room and down the stairs towards the kitchen.  In the small dining room John was sitting at the table surrounded by guns and gun parts, meticulously cleaning every speck of carbon and dirt off every part.  He looked up at Victor when he entered the room.  “How’s the boy, mate?”

“He’s awake finally.  Said that he told Steve to bite him because he needed their bugs.  He said that his bugs were dying because of something Frye gave him.  Seemed like something we might be able to use, if it can make the parasites sick.  Anyways, he asked for you while I go make him a sandwich.”

John wiped the film off his hands with towel and stood up.  “I’ll go see to him.  Glad he’s awake and feeling right.”  John walked towards Victor to head upstairs as Victor turned right to go down into the kitchen.

At the top of the stairs, John turned left into Max’s room and said, “Heya Maximillion, how ya feeling bucko?” as he sat  on the end of the bed.  He kicked off his boots and stretched his toes.

“I am hungry Mr. John.  It is important that you talk to your family.   The bugs can feel how sad I am for you. ” Max made a sad face to mimic the feeling.

“Just call me John when no-one else is around mate. Tell ’em I said that they have no idea how sad,” John laid down along the bottom of the bed on his side facing Max

“They can hear you John, and they feel as we do now.  Not like the bad bugs.  The bugs say I have enough strength now to talk to Sean, would you like to talk to Mr. Sean?”

“Mate, there is nothing more I would like to talk to him, except maybe deck him.”

Max sat up and held John’s hand and the heat built up causing John’s palm to sweat.

“Mr. Sean, are you awake?”  Talking through Max was so much more than when Tookes talked to him.  Not only were the words more clear but you could see the thoughts, the path of the connection,  and feel the emotion between minds.  John was amazed that Max could handle the intensity of the connection.

“I am now kiddo, are you ok?  I lost ya there for a while.  Is your father ok?  He is no longer on my grid mate.  Where is that dic… err brother of mine?”

“Sean?” John said out aloud.

“Bloody hell John, don’t yell!  You’re as bad as Victor, talk in your head mate.  How you doing?”

“Yeah good mate.  Holiday got extended, I think I’ve gone over my visa.  Yaself?”

“Ya idiot.  Good, Jo and the kids are here sleeping. We are safe here, well a lot safer now.”  As Sean looked over to John’s family, John could see his wife, his kids, sleeping peacefully through waves of light blue.  Then the vision dissapeared.

“Max, I told you to warn me before looking through my eyes mate. It hurts.”  John felt Max apologise to Sean, but no words were spoken.  John wondered how long Max and Sean had been talking “They probably didn’t know the connection” he thought.

“John, I can hear your thoughts when we’re connected like this mate.  It took us a few months to register it, Max told me one day about two weeks ago that I sounded funny like his friend Mr. John.  John, the locals are trying to claim back Australia with the help of some of us white fella’s, but we have one hell of a super zombie team here at the moment.  Three zombies wiped out forty humans with powers in Western Australia last week.  They didn’t stand a chance mate, I heard everything.

“Sean, settle down. I got a plan now that I can see into ya head.  And stop swearing with Max here.  How is Jo coping?” John imagined his plan as a computer file, and then imagined sending it to Sean like an attachment to an email.

“Righto, that’s a good plan, John.  You learn to quick sometimes, for a drongo!.  Jo is great, she keeps quiet but she is as much as a deviant as you are.  She’s sacrificed my life twice now.  I woulda taken it to heart, except she’d have done the same to you, if it meant saving the kids.    Apparently we are tougher to kill than you bastards in yankland.  That’s why Laura is here at the moment.  We killed off too many to quick, but after your last fight with all those supers, she may be going home sooner then expected.”

“John, I need to eat.” Max said aloud and John nodded in response.

“Sean get my family here, you are all welcome to come.  Tell Frank I said thanks, tell the family I love them. and Sean, it kills me to say this, but I am proud of you little brother.  Thanks mate, I love you.”

“Ditto bro, now let the kid rest and I’ll talk to you in a week.”

John sat up and put a hand on Max’s shoulder “Thanks bucko.”

“It’s okay.  Mr. John, did you like where I showed your wife and kids?”

“I did, very much.”  John sat back and his eyes welled up with the happiness of seeing his family and the good chance that he will see them again in a few weeks, when Victor walked back in.

“Is Mr. John telling sad stories?”

“No Daddy!! I was showing Mr. John a happy beginning!”

Tookes remembered Max eating an entire box of cereal bars after the first time he’d been bitten.  This time he brought Max two fresh mozzarella cheese sandwiches, an apple, a pear, and a glass of milk.  they all watched in amazement as he ate every bite, including the cores of the fruit before draining the glass of milk.

“I’m still hungry, Dad,”  Max said, his belly distended.

“Let’s let that settle a little bit buddy.  Then you can have anything you want in a few minutes.  Your fever is still up, do you need to rest some more?”

“I’m sleepy,” said Max.

“Ya, mate, I’m sleepy too,” said John with a grin.

I kissed Max on the forehead, and pulled his blanket up over him.  “Have a good sleep buddy.  We’ll be here when you wake up.”

John and I walked out of the room, and down to the kitchen where we found the rest of the crew.

“Hey Mom.  He woke up for a little bit, appears to be ok.  He ate two sandwiches, an apple and a pear before downing a huge glass of milk.  Last time he was bitten, he ate everything he could get his hands on for a day or two afterwards.”

“Oh, thank God,” Sharon said.

“Since we’re all here,” Victor continued.  “I’d like to go into Charlottesville with Marshall today and see if we can work out getting a train running.  We can scout around for tools and supplies that are already there, maybe we can find the steel and welding equipment to armor it up.”

“Vic, do you think you can really get to Renee?” Sharon had thought of nothing else since finding out her only daughter and two grand-daughters were alive.

“I’ll get her, and the kids.  I promise,” Vic said, nodding his head slowly.

Marshall and Victor went into the kitchen followed by John and Leo.  “We don’t like the idea of you two going in alone,” said Leo as she closed the door.

“I’d rather have you two with me too,”  Tookes said, “But I can’t leave Max here alone, I need you two here in case Frye or the nutjobs try to get him again.  I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to drive a train, and Marshall is the best welder of all of us.  It makes the most sense for the two of us to go.  Besides, the two of you are best  equipped to fight humans.  Your speed and John’s guns will make quick work of any humans that come our way.  I’m really only good at one on one fights, and Marshall is good at breaking things.  If I left Marshall here he’d probably throw the house at frye.” Tookes said with a big grin.

“What do you want us to do here then?” Asked John.

“Mostly, I want you to stay in the house and guard the boy.  Let the fire teams on patrol handle anything they can.  If anyone gets inside the house, kill them.  If they get to Max’s room, Leo I want you to grab Max and get him as far away as you can go in one hop.”

“Speaking of that.  What did you learn up in the national forest Leo?”

“Well.  By myself, I can go about 15 miles,” she said.  “If I’m carrying a 15 stone adult, It drops to about eight miles.  If I’m carrying two adults, its only about one mile.  I can move a rock the size of a small garden shed about five feet, but then I couldn’t even run for a few minutes.  My power comes back pretty quickly, but it does appear to be finite.  If I use it all in one shot, like when I moved that huge boulder, it took about five minutes before I could move it again.  The last interesting thing I learned, the more different things I take with me, the harder it is.  Carrying four humans is 100 times harder than two humans.  I’m not sure what thats about, but I could move all of us plus Max maybe 100 yards,” she said.

“Can you teleport someone or something and not go with it?”

“I’ve never tried that, but I don’t think so.  I think I have to be there to guide the re-entry.”

“Ok, anything else you learned?”

“I’d been in the same spot for about an hour when a zombie came stumbling out of the woods.  I don’t know haw far he came from, but I moved the big boulder first.  I think he’d been walking that whole hour.  He felt me move it from as much as three or four miles away.”

“Thanks for doing all of that, I know it was dangerous work,” Victor said.

Max slept most of the afternoon.  He woke up for about an hour to eat some more, and then went back to bed for the night.  Marshall and Tookes spent the rest of the afternoon planning the next days visit to the train yard.

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3.02 Purpose

Tookes was in his room, sitting at the desk.  There were two candles burning on either side of a book and he was completely  absorbed in his studies when he heard Baker screaming as he ran full speed up the hill and across the back lawn.  “Mrs. Tookes, Victor, it’s lil Maxie.  He’s been fuckin’ bit.”  His voice cracked and Baker sounded desperate.

Tookes lept out of his chair, turning the antique wooden desk chair over in the process.  On the way to the stairs, he quickly glanced into Max’s empty room and then took the steps three at a time to meet  Baker on the back porch.  Baker was holding the quivering child  in his arms.  Max’s face was red and flushed – beads of sweat coated his forehead and upper lip.  There was an angry looking bite mark on Max’s arm.  There were marks where a pair of incisors had broken the skin.  Two small streams of blood ran down the small boy’s arm, joining together at the elbow.  The blood had stopped, but the bite looked painful.

“He’s real fuckin’ hot, Tookes,” Baker said as Tookes took his son from him.  Max was so hot he was nearly burning his hands.

Oh fuck.  Max, come on Max, you’re strong buddy.  You can beat this, he thought desperately.

The man ran back upstairs, carrying the small boy and gently laid him down on the floor of the bathroom.  He immediately started running the last of the day’s hot water into the tub.  Everyone had learned to shower in the late afternoon, when the water in the five hundred gallon black plastic tank on the roof was as warm as it would get.  Now fully dark, the water in the solar heater would have cooled some.

Tookes knew he  had to get his son cooled down, but if the water was too cold it could throw the small boy  into shock.

“Victor!” Candi yelled at the top of her voice.  “Max is burning up!”  She swiped the temporal thermometer across his forehead again.  “This thing says he’s at 105.”
“Lets try the other kind,” Vic said, digging in the closet for the old under-the-tongue style thermometer.  He shook the thermometer as he’d seen his mother do his whole life and stuck the end under Max’s tongue.  “Hold that there.  It takes like three minutes,” he said.
“He feels like his skin is on fire!”  Candi was nearly hysterical with worry.
“Remember when you’re sister’s son had that fever so high he had convulsions?  She said their doctor told them to put him in a warm bath and alternate Motrin and Tylenol every two hours.  I’ll start the tub.”  

Victor shook himself out of his memory.  He stripped the small boy’s clothes off.  By the time he was done there was two inches of water in the big tub and Sharon was there.  Leo stood just outside the door, leaning against the frame.  She needed to stay out of the way and as much as her heart was in her throat to be next to Victor, she knew that it was not her place.  Being there for him after this took precedence and she would always be there for him no matter what.

“He’s got a huge fever, Mom,” Tookes said to Sharon.  “Last time Max was bitten, I caught it early and got Tylenol into him.  But I don’t think his fever went this high.  What if this bite is worse?  What if this bite is too much for his body to fight off?”

Sharon grabbed her son’s hand and squeezed it reassuringly.  She wasn’t going to leave their side.

Tookes could feel himself approaching panic and took a few breaths before he lifted Max gently over into the water.  His son was still unresponsive and his skin bright red, flush with the heat.  Victor ran his hands across his son’s light hair and asked, “Mom, do you have any liquid Tylenol or Motrin?”

“Maybe down in my bathroom,” she softly replied.  She still held her son’s hand in hers.  “He’s such a good father.  He loves that boy so much,” Sharon thought. “I wonder if there’s anything Victor can’t accomplish.

The shower curtain blew outwards towards the door and less than two seconds later, Leo was back by the door with a bottle of baby Motrin in her hand.  She tossed it towards him and Tookes caught it with ease.  He read the label.  The dosage for a two year old was half a teaspoon and that was as high as this bottle went.  It was for babies, not children, but it would have to be enough.  I opened his mouth and poured about half a teaspoon in his mouth, closed it and rubbed his throat to make him swallow it.  Vic repeated that process three times so Max drank a total of a teaspoon and a half.

Once the medicine was in him, he sat back and waited.  There wasn’t much else that he could do.  Sharon dug up a thermometer from a first aid kit in the hallway and checked his temperature every fifteen minutes.  Max soaked nearly two hours in the tub.  Shortly after we gave him the second dose of medicine, his fever dropped below 104.  Tookes lifted him out of the tub and cradled his son in his arms.  Leo had gone into Max’s room and grabbed some fresh PJ’s which Vic lovingly put on him.  He carried his son back to his room and put him in his bed covered by a sheet and a quilt.  Tookes fell asleep sitting on the floor beside Max’s bed with my arm under the back of his neck.

Sharon checked on them both throughout the night.  Her son and her grandson, the loves of her life.

Vic checked Max’s temperature the moment the sun rose the next morning.  There was no change.  It had been four hours without fever reducer and his fever was still 104.  Tookes administered more Motrin and watched him for a few minutes.  Again, he ran his hand through his son’s hair and down the side of his face.  Max’s breathing was slow and steady and his chest was rising and falling steadily.  Zombies didn’t breathe.  He put his hand on the tough little boy’s forehead.  He was still hot sweaty.  Hot is better than cold, thought Victor. Zombies don’t produce body heat.

Tookes left him there in bed.  He needed to get someone to sit with him for a few minutes while he grabbed some breakfast.  Stopping by Leo’s room was the obvious choice.  Tookes peered into her room and saw that she was sound asleep.  Checking his watch, he noted that it was only 5:20 in the morning;  still early.  Leo was laying on her right side with one of her hands up by her face.  She is so beautiful, he thought to himself.  He crawled into the bed beside her and kissed her on the forehead.  A small smile spread across Leo’s face as she snuggled up against him.

“Morning, Leo,” he whispered, “I need a favor.  Can you go sit with Max for a few minutes while I go get some food, some coffee and a new book?”

“Sure, Vic,” she said.  Sleep was heavy in her voice.  Vic rolled over on his side, and laid his arm over her. Leo suddenly realized how much she missed his touch.  He kissed her forehead before she got up, pulled on some clothes and walked out of the room towards Max.  Tookes felt his eyes growing heavy, but he resisted the urge to crawl back under the warm covers and go back to sleep.  Before the urge became undeniable, he climbed out of the bed and walked downstairs.

On the kitchen table there was a brown paper bag with my name on it.  Inside the bag was a note from mom that just said;

Vic
You’re a great Dad, you make me proud.
I love you,
Mom

He cringed slightly and thought, I feel like a shitty dad.  I let my not-even-four year old son sneak out of the house and get bitten by a zombie.  A zombie that he told me was his friend and I believed him.  Why did I believe him?  He is a baby.  He’s three years old.

Sharon had left a butter and cheese sandwich and an apple sitting on the table for her son. Victor ate hungrily and then went outside for a quick smoke.  They would need to either start growing tobacco, or he would need to kick the smoking habit.  The cigarette supply wouldn’t last forever.  He walked down the 300 year old brick sidewalk, around the edge of the old summer kitchen building and up towards the parking lot.

He walked past his cherished 4Runner.  The wrecked truck reminded him of the trip down here, almost half a year ago.  He thought about life before all this.  Working every day in an office, thinking he felt fulfilled, being satisfied with his life.  These days people fought and worked and bled for everything they had.  The four of them had nearly died on several occasions defending this place.  Many people had died defending this place, just a few nights ago.  Victor had several of their funerals to attend today.

He thought about his friends back in Pennsylvania and wondered if any of them were still alive.  He hoped that Ben and Melissa were still alive.  Ben was a US Marine, who’d gotten out of the ‘corps after ten years, and worked as a recruiter for the company Tookes worked for.  His wife, Melissa, worked from home, and kept their three kids.  If anyone could survive this, Ben could.  Tookes had made the mistake of going on a hiking trip with Ben once.  They walked twenty-two miles in one day.   Tookes stumbled into camp on the verge of death; Ben went for a run after the hike.  At least he took his pack off first, thought Tookes.

He hoped Angie was alive.  Tookes, Angie and Candi had been best friends for years.  Angie had the cutest little daughter who was born on the same day as Max.  Angie and her daughter Sarah had accompanied the Tookes family to Florida on vacation the year before.  One of Victor’s favorite memories was laying on the beach with Candi and Angie, watching the two children play in the surf.  That had been the trip of a lifetime for both families.  These days those memories were to be cherished, there weren’t going to be any more carefree trips to Florida.

He was tired.  He wondered if super-hero’s ever got tired.  The four of them hadn’t stopped fighting the “forces of evil” for months.  Real people had died; he had gotten himself  shot once and beaten up countless times.  Only his freakish immunity to zombies had kept him alive.  I am ZedMan! he thought.  Bumbling his way through a post apocalyptic world, ZedMan is sworn to kill every zombie on the planet!  Victor thought about his ridiculous promise to kill every zombie in the world.  It sounded absurd.  He considered the futility of that and for the first time, he formed the thought of giving up.  It really was an insane proposition.  Victor Tookes, mild mannered corporate middle manager, on a quest to save the world.  Maybe I should just stay here.  Maybe I should just keep Max alive, build a huge wall around this place and start a new life.  Maybe saving the world isn’t my job, he thought.

There were other humans with super powers out there.  The four of them had run into people with their exact powers not 50 miles from here.  Why was it his responsibility and not one of theirs?
Because they’re dead.  You killed them because they were bad people.  The thought entered Victor’s mind.  It didn’t sound like one of his thoughts.  It sounded more like Max.

He flicked his cigarette into the tall grass as the sun began to peeked up over the horizon.  He then turned back towards the house.  Victor had already been gone about twenty minutes and was feeling himself drawn back to Max’s side.  The sun was moving quickly; it was half-up over the horizon already.   There was some rustling up by the garden and Tookes felt compelled to check it out.  He changed his direction to walk up towards it.

About five feet later, he identified the cause the rustling.  There was a man laying in the tall grass around the garden,  inching towards Tookes on his belly.  The man wore a red flannel shirt and the remnants of a green John Deer baseball cap.  After a  few more steps, Victor was certain it was a zombie.  Reflecting back, Victor realized that he hadn’t seen one this close to the house in a very long time.

He didn’t have anything on him that even remotely resembled a weapon.  “Another stupid mistake, Tookes,” he said to himself and walked towards the ghoul.  It was pulling itself along by the arms.  The sunlight grew brighter with every step he took and every step brought him closer to the pitiful creature.  Eventually, Tookes stopped and watched it struggle across the grass.

Its legs trailed behind it, broken and useless.  One of its arms ended in a stump with a bit of crushed bone sticking out.  The bone was worn to a sharp point.  It flopped the dead arm up over its head and down in front of it, moving the corpse forward about an inch before the arm bone slipped, digging a semi-circle furrow in the grass.

Victor walked past the zombie and towards the old carriage house where all the gardening tools were kept.  The heavy wooden door scraped the concrete of the driveway as he slid it open.  Inside in the dim light, he made his to the back of the shed and hefted a mattock.  The slightly rusty tool had a pick on one end and a flat, slightly curved blade on the other.  He thought about all the times he swung this thing digging out tree stumps.  With the mattock you could get the flat blade under a root and then pry back on the handle, popping them like matchsticks.  It was a back breaking device to use all day long.  It was a heavy, rough duty digging tool.  He walked back out of the carriage house and took a practice swing with the mattock.  Rudimentary, but it would do the trick.

He walked back to the slithering corpse and knelt down a couple of feet in front of it.

“Morning, old timer.  I’m sorry that your life came down to this.  I’m sorry that these fucking creatures came here and did this to you and…I’m sorry that I now am the one that has to end this torment.”  He stood up and heaved the heavy iron blade up over his head and said, “I’m sorry for what’s happened to you,” and he brought the pick end down into the creature’s skull.  As the long pointed iron pick pierced his skull, he felt the zombie’s body go limp.  The creature struggled briefly before finally giving up.  Tookes finally felt it rest.  “Rest in peace,” he said softly.

If not you, who?  Every one of the great accomplishments  in the history of mankind were started by one man.  It’s a job, and someone has to do it.  If everyone asks “why me,” who would do it?  Tookes had always considered himself a “do-er.”  He could hear his father say “Son, there’s two kinds of people in this world, big-picture people and “do-ers.”  The world is full of big-picture people and what it needs are more “do-ers”.”  This was my life now.  This was what I was made to do.

Victor trotted back to the house, feeling a renewed sense of purpose.  He dropped the mattock off by the back door and stepped into the kitchen.   Sharon and two other people were busy preparing breakfast for all of the people of their little settlement.

“Mom,” Victor said, leaning against one of the kitchen counters, “I killed a zombie up by the garden.  I’m anxious to get back to Max but the corpse is still there.  Do you think you can find someone to get rid of it?”

“At the garden?  That’s a little worrisome.  We haven’t seen anything that close to the house in a long time,” she said, glancing at her son before returning her attention to the potatoes she was cutting.

“I know,” he responded,  “It was just a dragger.  It probably took it four months to make it from the old Vaughn riding ring to the garden.  But still…”

“Ok, I’ll have Ron take care of it,” Sharon said. “Give Max a kiss for me.”

On the way up to Max’s room, Tookes grabbed one of the re-filled bottles of water and trotted up the stairs.  As he entered the room, Leo looked in his direction.  She was laying on the bed next to Max.

“Any change?” Tookes asked her.

“None,” she replied softly, “But at least we know he’s not getting worse…”

Tookes sighed as he sat back down on the floor beside Max.  He slid his arm under Max’s neck and kissed him on the forehead.  In minutes, Leo was fast asleep again with Max on the bed.  Victor sat on the floor and went to sleep with his head laid against the mattress.

3.01 Recharge

Tookes spent most of the day planning.  Max slept until almost noon and once again, woke up ravenously hungry.  That was a good sign and he was recovering well.  It was becoming more and more apparent that Max was a true Tookes just like his daddy; he was small, but Vic was proud at the bravery of his son.  Time slipped by so fast these days and Tookes felt like his little boy was almost growing before his eyes.  He knew he needed to cherish every moment.

Max ate a decent sized lunch then immediately went back upstairs to bed.  Vic watched his son climb the stairs, blowing him as kiss as he went around the last corner.  A few minutes later, Tookes and the crew discussed their options as they sat  around the antique dining room table, eating a lunch of thinly sliced roast venison sandwiches and fresh fried sweet potato chips.

“John, Max needs to recover a little bit before we can even talk to Sean.  Sean needs to get from your house to an airport, but not just any airport.  We need the biggest airport in the lowest population area we can find.  We need to find someone that can fly a plane.  Then we need to fly a plane and coordinate flying around the world with them arriving at the airport.”

John sat back in his chair,  mulling it over.  Marshall took that second to interject between bites of freshly fried sweet potato chips, “Let’s talk about Renee.  Max said that she was stuck south of a big city,” Tookes said.  “The only big city between Atlanta and here is Charlotte, North Carolina.   In the old days, that was a five hour drive.  These days, who the hell knows how long it could take.” Victor shrugged, “If she’s south of the city, we’re going to have to go through or around it and I honestly don’t like the prospect of either.  When I lived in Charlotte fifteen years ago, there were a million people there.”

“How the fuck are we going through a million bloody zombies, mate?” asked John.

“I have an idea about that.  On the north side of Charlotte is a huge stone quarry.  It’s over a half mile deep.  I  think we go pied piper on them, lead them to the quarry and dump them in.”

“Vic, there has got to be supers in a town that size,” said Marshall.

“That’s the first phase.  We draw the supers out first.”

“That has to be easier said than done.  How do we do that?” Marshall asked.

“With a show of strength, bro.  The way they’ve been tracking us, I say we use that against them.  We find our killing zone and have some fun blowing out our powers.  I’m talking about things that make so much noise every super within a hundred miles will come looking.  I’ve been cooking something up I’m dying to try.  I know Leo wants to see how far she can teleport.  Marshall, have you ever figured out exactly how much you can lift?” Tookes said with an almost mischievous smirk.

Marshall was ever the pragmatist and ignored his brother. “My thoughts are that we find a train,” the big man said. “The railroad runs forty-five minutes from here,  starting in Charlottesville down through Virginia and North Carolina to Atlanta.  There, it turns west and runs all the way to southern California.  With stops in the old days, it was an eight hour train ride.  I should be able to push almost anything off of the track.  I figure that if we ride a locomotive with only one car, we should have the power to push anything else off the tracks that I can’t push off myself.  We can outrun any zombies and run over any in the way with very little fear of damage to the vehicle and of course,” he added with a smirk,  “We won’t run into any traffic jams.”

“Victor, darling, what are you going to do with Max?  Last time you left, Frye came for him,” asked Mom.

“I’m bringing him with me.  I’m not making the same mistake twice,” Tookes said plainly and grabbed  a second home-made roll and a bottle of mustard.

The four faces around the table looked at him  in astonishment. “Seriously?”

“He’s not leaving my sight with Frye still out there and with those whack-jobs from Reva.  Actually, that’s an even better reason to take a train.  We can armor up the car and have some kind of a mobile tank.” Victor cut open the roll and then gestured towards his brother with the knife.  “I think Marshall is right.  We can easily stop anything that gets in our way fairly quickly with just one train-car.” Tookes said and  piled thinly sliced roast venison tenderloin on a second roll and slathered it in  spicy brown mustard.

Tookes’ mother looked skeptical and had her arms crossed as she asked, “What if you get swamped  in there?”

“We would have to build the train with that in mind,” said Marshall and paused. “Now that I think about it, we could build it to withstand a significant siege.”

“How sure are you?” asked Leo and Marshall shrugged.

“Sure enough,” he said.

“Well, I’m sure.” Tookes said, trying to convey confidence. “We have a few more items to discuss.  We need to hold funerals for the men that died and come up with some way to honor them.  I’m open to suggestions.”  Vic took another bite of his sandwich, amazed once again that his mother could take almost nothing and make it into a miraculous dinner.  She always had the ability to take what she had on hand  and turn it into something fabulous and delicious, even with something as basic as venison.  Even though it seemed small, this lunch with his family warmed Tookes’ heart.  It was another glimmer at the potential that life could return to some semblance of “normal.”

“We’re going to start a wall, right?” Leo suggested.  “We could name a tower or section of the wall after them.”

“We could build a tall tower in honor of all those who have and will lose their life in this mess,” was Marshall’s suggestion.

“I like the idea of a tower,” Tookes said, taking another bite of his sandwich and wiping mustard from his face.  “Maybe in the center of the east wall, the direction of sunrise, to represent the new life they died to build.”

“That’s awfully poetic, Vic,” Leo said, raising her eyebrow.

“Well, it seems fitting to me.  Let’s all put some thought into this and talk about it in a couple of days.  I’m open to suggestions.” He took another bite of his sandwich and then pushed his plate away, “Now,  item number two on the list is home place security.  With Bookbinder gone and compromised, we need to change up everything.  We need to change our patrol routes.  We need to change our personnel and we need to invent new tactics.  Bookbinder knows how we train, so we need new training.  Basically, we need a new Bookbinder.   He was a good friend to me but he’s a big threat to our security.”

“If Sean was here, he could train ‘em up right,” John murmured.

“I wish he was and he will be soon, John,” Vic said, clapping John on the shoulder. “Until Sean gets here, would you mind setting  up a training schedule?   We need someone competent.”

“Not sure I’m the best choice for that,” John laughed and added, “Alright, mate.”

“What about Ken Leuty?” asked Marshall.  Tookes knew Marshall had the best relationship with the settlers; he spent a lot of time down at the barn when the four of them weren’t out trying to exterminate the planets infestation.  Marshall was a very talented carpenter.  He’d built beds and chairs out of the scrap lumber from a two hundred year old barn we’d torn down several years earlier.  He was an amazing craftsman.  The talent to take ancient barn wood and turn it into exquisite furniture  was a unique and wonderful gift.  Seeing Marshall working with his hands was treat to anyone who watched.  His skill  was a combination of patience and attention to detail.  He would spend hours sculpting and carving a headboard until it was just right.  Almost all of the furniture the settlers used daily was hand made by Marshall.  It was his labor of love and the settlers regarded them as prized possessions.

“Leuty?  He’s pretty young, isn’t he?  Do you think he can handle it?” Tookes asked.

“He handled himself in the whole Frye situation better than Baker did.  Leuty showed initiative and tried to take control of the situation.  He was doing well but the whole crew was out maneuvered.  I don’t think there is a better man to fill in,” Marshall said and then ate half of his third sandwich in one bite.  Leo giggled from the other side of the table as he chowed down.

“Okay, let’s name Leuty as commander of M1.  We should pull the guys from M1 aside and let them know.  Can you take care of that, Marshall?  John and I need to go to the library and I have a special task for Leo.”

“Sure,” Marshall said,  “Oh, can you pick me up a book with woodworking patterns while you’re there?”

“Sure, bro,” Tookes said.  He looked around the table and asked if anyone else had any other questions.  “If we’re done here, we need to get a move on.  I don’t expect a lot of trouble at the library, but I’d like to be back before dark.  Mom, did you have anything else?  Do you need anything?”

“I’m pretty well set up here.  If you happen to find any seeds, could you bring them with you?  We could use seeds from any vegetable or herb.  But we have a lot of time for that kind of thing.”

“Okay, we’ll keep an eye peeled.” Tookes said as we all stood up from the table. “Thanks for this lunch Mom, my sandwich was amazing.  And potato chips? Did you make them by hand?”

“Oh, it was nothing,” she said with a wave of her hand.  “I fried them this morning to keep the sweet potatoes in the house from going bad.”

“You amaze me every day, Mom,” Tookes said and embraced his mom, kissing her on the cheeck.

“Thank you Mrs. Tookes,” said Leo as she  stood.

The group of friends all walked out and Marshall headed off towards the barn to deliver the news of Leuty’s promotion.  Tookes and Leo stayed behind as they spoke.

“Leo, I need to know a couple of things about your power but I need you to do your testing pretty far away from here,” he said.  “About 100 miles from here, you’ll find yourself in the Jefferson National Forest.  It’s almost two million acres of forest.  The zombie population should be pretty low there.  I need to know how big or how much weight you can teleport and how far you can go in each bound when you  by yourself and if you’re carrying something or someone else.”

“You got it.  But I can tell you most of that now,” Leo said, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall.

“I also want you to really use your power.  Part of why I’m sending you so far away is to see if I can feel it.  I’ve never really paid attention to it before but when I think about the times we’ve really used our powers, there’s a tickle in the back of my head.  I want to see if that’s what it is.”

“Okay, I don’t need a lot of arm twisting to be sent off to the middle of the woods for some alone time,” Leo said with a smile.

“Try to be back before dark.  And let me know also if you feel like you’re getting stronger with use. We’re all getting stronger but I’m not sure if it’s our continued exposure, or if it’s use. Lke a muscle.”

“Sure thing, Vic.” She said, leaning forward to kiss him on the lips before running off.  Tookes felt her body flinch awkwardly as their lips touched, but thought nothing of it.

It is remarkable how little Victor sees, Leo thought to herself as she jogged away.  The way he held his lips when they kissed felt foreign and forced.  One of her favorite things about Victor was the way he would kiss her.  When their lips would touch, it was like nothing else mattered in the world other than what was happening in that very moment.  But something was different between them now.   He needed time to himself to think and figure things out with Max.  She understood that.  But everything about him had changed in such a short amount of time and she couldn’t help but wonder if she had done something wrong without realizing it.

—-

John and Tookes loaded up in the jeep and headed towards town.  Tookes needed many different books.   He had a lot of reading to do before they boarded the train.  He needed at least one book on trains and a book on planes, specifically navigation, flight lanes, air speeds and fuel capacities.  He needed world maps and he hoped to check out a bunch of books for Max.  The two of them spent the entire afternoon at the library and brought back more books than they had originally intended.  They made it back to the home just after dark without incident.

John picked up every book he could carry that detailed military tactics.  One book compared the strategies of every general in history and another one detailed modern special forces training.  He picked up a stack of books on hand to hand combat and martial arts.  John’s recent hand to hand combat with Dan at the Crazy’s encampment made him a little insecure and that, in turn, made Tookes a little nervous.  Perhaps I should read all those books too, he thought.

Late that night, after a supper of beef tips and gravy over rice with peas, everyone retired to their rooms.  Leo had stopped in her room briefly to grab a clean tank top for the next morning.  As she came out of her room and around the corner, she made brief eye contact with Vic and she smiled at him.  Tookes looked right past her as if she wasn’t even there.  Her smile fell as he turned into his room and abruptly shut the door.  Leo could feel her heart shatter as she took a step back.  She shook her head as she turned around and walked back into her room feeling confused and frustrated.  With defeat resting heavily in her mind, she shut the door.

Tookes started reading a book called “Study Guide for the Locomotive Engineers Exam.”  A lot of it had to do with traffic control.  Other than trying to figure out how the switches worked and how to make sure he ended up on the right tracks, he didn’t have a lot to worry about with traffic on the rails.  The controls of a locomotive, it turns out, were fairly simple.  However, starting up the huge diesel generators that made the massive amounts of electricity to power the thing was very complex.  There was an exact start-up sequence required.  It reminded him of the old 1960’s Adam West Batman. Turbines to Speed! he thought.
—-
“Max, wake up.  Steve is here;  he’s waiting for you across from the river.”

Max rolled out of his bed and put on his shoes.  He grabbed a jacket from the chair in his room, in case it was cold and padded quietly across the bedroom and down the stairs.  Once he was outside, it wasn’t hard for the small boy to make it across the lawn.  He stopped once for a group of soldiers and then again for the returning patrol.

He hid behind a bush until the returning patrol passed by.

“I can’t believe they put Leuty in charge,” one man said as he walked by.

“They’ve been in the shit deeper than any one of us and they’ve made it out every time. I’d follow any one of The Four through hell and back,” said another.

“I’m not saying they made a mistake.  I’m just saying I don’t understand why Leuty.”

“Maybe Tookes read his mind and saw something.”

“Can he do that?”

“Absolutely.”

Max almost gave himself away giggling.  Daddy can’t read anyone’s mind.  At least not like that, he thought to himself.

When they had passed, Max ran as fast as he could to the barn office, around the back and down the hill to the river.  He waited about 10 minutes for the patrol to go by.  This time, they walked by in silence.  They were so quiet that he almost missed them.  Max had to think very hard about hiding.  He thought about looking like a tree stump with dark, textured bark.  He imagined what it would be like to have his feet turn into roots and to grow deeply into the ground and have plants growing at the base of the stump.

Anyone staring directly at him when he concentrated would have seen the little boy’s eyes light up with a pale blue light and then seen his shape shimmer for a second.  When you blinked to clear your eyes, you would have realized you were only looking at a stump and not a little boy at all.

Baker nearly tripped over the unfamiliar stump. “Who put that fuckin’ stump right in the middle of the fuckin’ path I’ve been fuckin’ walkin for four fuckin’ weeks?” He said passing by.

Max almost giggled as he waited for them to be out of ear shot before calling out to Steve.

“Come bite me.  Come across the river and give me all your e-clays.”

“Thank you, Max.  The time you’ve given us and your kindness towards us showed us that humans don’t have to be exterminated.  We will transfer ourselves to you to strengthen you.  You can always count on us,” Steve said.

“Thank you for being a good friend.  I’ll miss you Steve,” said Max.  He wasn’t sure this was right, but his bugs told him it was the only way.

Steve did as he was ordered.  When he had transferred the last of his E’Clei to Max, the shell that had been Steve fell to the ground, dead forever.  Max screamed when Steve bit him; his bugs had been too sick to fully mask the pain.

“What the fuck was that fuckin’ noise?” asked Baker.  He immediately started running back towards the source of the sound with his team.  When he found Max, he was laying beside Steve’s corpse, unconscious.  Max felt like he was two hundred degrees in Bakers arms as he ran up the hill towards the manor house, screaming for Victor and Mrs. Tookes.

2.05 State Police

Earlier that morning, the day Tookes went to the propane depot, Leon Scott watched Bookbinder stride purposely down the hill.  The chill in the fall morning air made his breath visible as he walked.  He’d spent the last hour in an early morning strategy meeting with The Four.  He looked calm and in control.

“Listen up.  Colonel Bookbinder is here.  Attention!” Shouted Scott.

Nineteen men came running out of various places around the barn.  They lined up in two straight rows and stood at attention on the gravel parking lot they used as the parade ground.  Scott stood off to the side, facing the men.

“Colonel Bookbinder, Sir.  Fire teams M1, M2, M3, and M5 present,” Scott reported.  “M4 is out running a perimeter check, due back in 20 minutes,” said Bookbinder’s newly promoted Lieutenant.

“Command has need for medical supplies, communications equipment, and fuel for cooking,” said Bookbinder.

“M2, you’re on homeland patrol, so you’re sitting this out.  M1, we’re going to the police station to secure assets necessary to the mission.  M3, your mission is to take the CVS off route 29 in downtown Culpeper.  This is a hostile environment,” said Bookbinder pausing while he looked at the men assembled in front of him.

“Understood, Sir,” Said Scott.

Bookbinder nodded, “The number of infected is expected to number in the tens of thousands in Culpeper, and you’re heading right to the edge of a residential area.  Your orders are to breach the CVS, acquire medical equipment and supplies, over the counter and prescription drugs.  You are not to fire unless contact is overwhelming.  Men, this is a silent mission.  Get in and get out, no noise, no attention.  Grab the assets and go.  You leave in 5 minutes.  Do you understand?”

“Sir, yes sir!” shouted M3’s team members.

“M3, take the two explorers, grab your gear and go.  Dismissed!”

“M5, your orders are as follows.  Breach and clear the plastic surgery center on the corner of 1st and Market St.  Obtain medical equipment, including diagnostic imaging equipment that can be transported, sutures, IV bags and kits, and any drugs you can find.  We’re setting up a clinic here, so make it complete boys,” said Bookbinder.

“Sir, yes Sir,” chorused the men of M5

Bookbinder continued, “Mission parameters are the same as M3, no gunfire unless absolutely necessary.  You’re one block off the center of downtown Culpeper, the highest population density area for fifty miles.  Do not draw attention to yourselves.  Breach gently, make sure you can lock the place up securely when you leave.  We may need that clinic in the future, and we may need it fast, I don’t want to have to re-clear the building if we have a wounded man bleeding out.  Once you secure the premises, remove any corpses, and haul them away from the building.  We don’t want it to look like anyone’s been there. M5, do you understand your mission?”

“Sir, yes sir!” the members of M5 replied in unison.

“Good.  Take the Ford Dually and the white F250.  You know Tookes loves that white pickup, don’t wreck it.  M5, you leave in five minutes, dismissed!”

“M2, ready yourselves for homeland patrol.  You leave when M4 gets back.  Dismissed!”

When everyone was gone except Bookbinder’s own team, he continued with the orders.

“M1.  Our mission is two-fold.  Command has directed us to recon the state police headquarters.  They’ve also tasked us with keeping an eye out and being ready to back up any of the other teams as required.  Our mission at the headquarters is to acquire police assets, vests, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, and vehicles.”

“Men, The Four are heading to the propane depot.  Their mission is to secure cooking fuel for Mrs. Tookes.  They’ve got the most open area, and they’re a little cocky.  We’ll need to back them up if they get in over their heads.”

“We leave in five minutes also.  Get to it men, dismissed.”

Charlie headed quickly down to his room in the grooms cottage to gather his stuff.  He’d taken the small one room cottage for himself.  He let anyone to use his bathroom at almost any time, his door was never locked.  Inside the small, cozy cottage he knelt down at his foot locker, unlocked it, and retrieved his weapons.  He almost never openly wore even a side arm on the property, both as a show of respect for the children in the area, and to show that he was confident in their safety.  He did carry a small frame 9mm handgun concealed in the rear waistband of his pants; he’d been carrying that weapon for 15 years, and just didn’t feel right without it.

He strapped on his desert camo combat vest, and slid in the armor plates.  The chest strap for his HK g3 attached to D-rings on his vest.  The H&K was .308 caliber carbine.  It was almost as powerful as the rifle Tookes called Sammie, and just as accurate at ranges out to a hundred yards.  It had a collapsible stock which allowed it to be more effective indoors and an ACOG scope for faster target acquisition.  Bookbinder carried six 20 round magazines in his combat vest plus one in the rifle, Charlie alone could handle a small horde of infected.

He walked out of his cottage ready to do violence.  His men were there waiting for him, already sitting in the explorer.  Charlie knew they’d be bringing additional vehicles home, so they were riding packed tightly for the fifteen miles up through town.

They arrived at the police station in no time, the place looked deserted.  The building itself was steel, Dalton Reineer exited the front passenger side of the vehicle and advanced on the 8 foot chain link and barbed wire fence.  He pulled a large pair of collapsible bolt cutters from his pack and unfolded the handles out to their full twenty-four inches.  These cutters were military issue, and easily cut through the padlock that was holding the fence closed.

Reineer removed the chain, looped it through one side of the fence and opened the gate, motioning Hostetler to drive through.  On the way to the police station, they’d discussed entry points, it seemed most logical to breach through the back door near the giant roll up doors.  There were a dozen police cars parked inside the chain link fence; two of them were explorers with full bull bars and inside prisoner cages.

The team approached the rear door in a formation that they’d practiced in the yard on Charlie’s cabin door a hundred times.  Hostetler, Reineer, and Garrett on the handle side, Johnson on the hinge side.  Charlie stepped forward with a large Halligan style pry-bar.  He drove the forked end into the crack between the latch and the frame, and pried out and right, sending the door flying open to the left.

Johnson caught the door, giving Charlie room to step to the side between Hostetler and Reineer to recover from the prying outside the line of fire from the room.  Hostetler and Reineer stepped forward as Charlie was stepping between them in a well choreographed dance.  Charlie holstered the Halligan and shouldered his rifle.  The two underlings cleared the entry way.  They started way back from the door, taking small sections of the room.  They stepped up, each step towards the doorway giving them a larger view into the room.  They knelt on either side of the door, as Charlie stepped through to clear the blind corner just inside the door.

“Well done boys, that was textbook.  Keep your wits about you.  Garrett, tell me what you sense.”

“Nothing has been in this room in a long time.  No tracks in the dust.  I don’t hear anything walking around, Sir,” said Garrett.

“And what else Johnson?” Bookbinder quizzed the men.  He never missed an opportunity to drive home their training.

“I don’t see anything moving through the windows.  I think we’re good.”

“Dammit Johnson, use your nose.”

“I can’t smell anything.  My nose is stuffy,” replied Johnson.

“You should quit smoking, it kills your senses.  Would you smoke if it clouded your vision?” He asked again.

“Yes, Sir.” Said Johnson, “I mean no Sir—I mean, I should quit, Sir.  I would not smoke if it clouded my vision, Sir.”

“Alright,” Bookbinder said.  “I smell rotten meat.  I smell stupid zombies in here.  They’re not in this room, if they were that smell would have assaulted our noses, but they’re in here somewhere.”

Once the lesson was over they moved as a unit through the building clearing room by room.  After the first room when it became clear that the building wasn’t full of infected, Charlie let his rifle hang and once again drew the halligan.

They’d come in via the police entrance, not the front door of the building.  Charlie opened the door to the hallway and took a long smell.  The stench of months old flesh was stronger in the hallway.  Five steps down the hallway there were doors on the right and left.  Charlie held up two fingers, and then pointed to Reineer and himself.  He pointed to Dalton, Hostetler, and Johnson and pointed at the door across the hallway.

The team split into two groups and on Charlie’s mark each quietly turned the knob and opened their door.  Charlie stepped into the gloomy room to see a corpse in a police uniform turn its head towards him.  It was wearing glasses and still had its patrolman’s hat on.  Its eyes locked on to him.  They were milky and white but the hunger stood out in them.  The creature walked forward into its desk and fell face-first onto a pile of folders.  With the zombie bent over the desk like that, Charlie quickly closed the distance and lodged his halligan into its brain.

Reineer pulled an old office chair away and sent it rolling over towards a giant metal book case that ran the length of the side wall.  The mostly empty shelves were painted the same beige color as everything else in the building.  A few trophies, a couple awards and a family picture were the only things on the first half; Charlie noted a small selection of paperbacks filling about half of a single shelf towards the end of the room.

The two of them laid the patrolman down on the blue carpet-tiled floor and went to work.  Reineer removed the utility belt from the officer, putting a Kimber 1911 frame .45 caliber pistol and four magazines into his backpack.  Next he removed a pair of handcuffs from the rear pouch, and slid a Maglite and collapsible baton off the belt, still in their holsters.  The flashlight, and baton and hand gun holster went into his pack.

Charlie poked its stomach with his finger.

“Cheap body armor.  This is the everyday wear stuff; it’ll stop a three-eighty, but won’t do anything for seven-six-two.  Plus, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get the smell out.”  Go check on the others, I’ll poke around here and see if there’s anything useful.

When Reineer was gone, Bookbinder set to work checking the man’s pockets.  He found a set of keys in the front pocket.  The keychain said “World’s Greatest Dad”, and it held a house key and two car keys, one for a Toyota and one for a Chevrolet.  Two keys were for Master Lock padlocks, and the last key was to his handcuffs.

Charlie rolled the corpse over, removed the officer’s drivers license from his wallet, inserting it into his back pocket without even glancing at it.

Bookbinder stood up and walked into the hall.  The rest of the team was there, ready to move on.  “Be sure to take their keys, and get their driver’s licenses.  LEO’s often have sizable gun collections at home,” he said, using the common military slang for law enforcement officers.

There were three other doors in the hall, two other doors on the right led to empty restrooms.  The third door at the end of the hall had long, narrow vertical glass windows, embedded with chicken wire.

“That door up there will lead to the common area.  We’re likely to see greater numbers of infected up there.  Stay sharp, stay focused.  Hand to hand wherever possible.  Move forward on my signal.”

Bookbinder moved swiftly and silently, pressed against the wall until he was at the door.  He peered through the window, exposing as little of himself as possible to anything that may be on the other side.

The room on the other side of the doors was the main lobby of the state police barracks.  It took Bookbinder almost a full minute to count the walkers in there.  They were all in a pack in the center of the room, facing inward.  Men and women, inThe pack was, as a whole, swaying gently side to side.  Each zombie had their arms spread, resting on the shoulder of the corpse beside them, their heads down, tucked into the smallest space possible.  Charlie waved to his man to stay back, and then crept back to them, pulling them backwards to the first room.

“Alright, I counted fifty-two in the lobby.  They’re huddled together in a tight group, standing in the middle of the room.  There are two seating areas under the big windows in the front, but other than that, the room is mostly empty.  I couldn’t see anything to the left, but I think that’s where the receptionist would be, probably behind some bullet proof glass.”

The four men with Charlie looked afraid.  This was a major operation, bigger than anything they had experienced yet.

“We won’t let you down, Sir,” said Dalton quietly.

“Son, I’m not the least bit worried about that.  We all keep our heads and remember our training; we’re going to walk out of this place feeling unstoppable.  Here’s the plan.”

Charlie laid out the plan to the group.  When everyone understood, the five of them cleared the rest of the building, leaving the huddle until the end.  They moved as a unit, encountering only two undead, both of them dispatched via halligan soundlessly.  When they got to the last room of the second hallway, Bookbinder pulled the men together.

“Alright, silence from here out.” Charlie whispered.  “This is the room where the receptionists sat.  The end of this room has thick bullet proof glass, with a hole cut out for speaking through.  The three of you stay here.  Creep up on that glass, on your bellies if you have to, do not let them see you.”

Garrett, Hostetler, and Johnson nodded their understanding.

When you hear Reineer and I firing, open fire through the speaking ports in that huge window.  When they’re all down, Reineer and I will step in and finish any with our halligans, you three stay in your position and give us some cover.

Reineer and Bookbinder backtracked down the empty hallways to the first set of double doors, creeping the last ten feet sliding along the wall.  The doors opened into the big room by a breaker bar.  Bookbinder held up three fingers and pantomimed kicking the breaker bar.

Reineer nodded his acknowledgement and both men put their earplugs in.  Bookbinder started the countdown.  One finger, two fingers, and on the third finger, both men kicked the doors open and opened fire.  Bookbinder thumbed his weapon to single shot, and aimed each bullet through the ACOG scope.  That scope was designed to be fired with both eyes open, allowing him to acquire targets much faster than with a regular scope.

Reineer opened up on full auto, cutting the zombies down.  According to their training, the four men with Bookbinder were to lay down rotating heavy suppression fire.  Zombies had no fear, but if you put enough bullets into their spine, they did lose the ability to stand upright.  A slow dragger was easier to handle than a walker.  That bought time for Bookbinder to pick them off one by one with headshots.

At the end of the firing, the room was filled with the smell of gun smoke, and the cluster of zombies was dead, shredded from the volume of bullets pumped into them.  At the sound of the doors being kicked open, they wheeled around to be met a hail of bullets.  Bookbinder only missed one shot, but silently chided himself for wasting that one bullet.

“Great work, men.  You’ve earned your combat stripes today,” said Charlie.  “Let’s meet back at the first room”

When the other three arrived in the first room, Bookbinder handed out the orders for the second part of the mission.  “Garrett, Hostetler, make your way to the roof, and see how hard it will be to remove the radio tower, then report back.  Reineer, you’re with me, we’re going looking for keys, guns, ammo, and vests.”

“What about me, sir?”

“Johnson, you’re on corpse duty.  Glove up and search those bodies out there.  Haul the corpses from in here out to the lobby.”

“Yes, Sir,” replied Johnson, somewhat less than enthusiastically.

“Yes Sir!” the other men said, as they all went their separate ways inside the building.  Charlie knew that the door to the garage was in the next room over.  He’d had to breach the door with the halligan the first time through; whichever officer had the keys decided not to leave them on a hook for him right by the door.  This time the door swung easily open, and led them into the garage where the SWAT truck was parked.

“Reineer, find the keys to this van please.  You might check with Johnson in a few minutes to see if he’s found them,” Bookbinder ordered.

Reineer started searching the garage for the keys while Bookbinder headed for the weapons locker on the far side of the room.  Bookbinder’s halligan made quick work of the lock on the arms locker and he stepped into the walk-in closet sized police arsenal.  Charlie’s eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when he entered the locker.  Along one of the walls were rows of rifles and shotguns.  The other long wall was all handguns, with 30 Heckler-Koch g36K assault rifles standing in racks along the middle.  The same gun that Bookbinder himself carried.  These super short barrel folding stock assault rifles were perfect for close quarters combat.  They were designed for short range accuracy, and substantial rate of fire.  At the back was the ammunition locker, which was unlocked.  Inside it held 8500 rounds of 5.52×49 ammunition for the assault rifles, various rounds for the shotguns and rifles, including nearly 2000 double-ought buck shot.

Bookbinder left the weapons cage and went to find a cart to load this on in the event that Reineer was unable to find the keys to the swat truck.  On the way by the truck Bookbinder looked in the window, and saw the keys hanging in the ignition.

“Reineer!” Bookbinder yelled, a grin on his face.

Dalton Reineer came running in, “Yes sir?” he said, skidding to a halt.

“The keys are in the ignition.  Don’t overlook the obvious,” Bookbinder said, clapping the man on the back.

“Sorry sir.  I found keys to a bunch of vehicles outside too.”

“Nice work then.  Help me load the armory into this thing.  I want the central racks too, and every round of ammunition in the cage.  Load and save four of the HK’s and four extra mags for each.  I’m going to sweet the perimeter and check on Johnson on corpse duty.”

Bookbinder walked out of the garage, back through the lobby of the police station.  The door leading outside was standing open.  Bookbinder saw Johnson with his weapon drawn, crouched behind a car.  The only reason he’d take cover would be if someone had a gun.  That meant humans.

Bookbinder shouldered his H&K, and started edging out the door until he could see what Johnson was looking at.  Frye and six of his men had pulled up in two Humvees and were mounting their .50 caliber on the turret.

“Frye,” Charlie called out in his best command voice.  “We have you outgunned and out-manned!  You have no cover, and we have superior weapons.  Stand down.”  This was not a suggestion, it was an order.

“Charlie? Is that you?  Come outside and let’s talk.”

“Stand down Colonel.  Weapons down.  I will fire.”

“Ok Charlie.  We’re at ease.  Come on out.”

“Johnson!  We clear?”

“Clear Sir.  I have Frye.”

Charlie walked out, watching 1 eye through the ACOG scope, the other focusing on targets.  If any of them moved, it would be their last move.  Charlie walked in a near crouch, sideways to present the smallest target, keeping Frye in his sights.

“What are you thinking? We’re on the same side here,” said Bookbinder.

“We didn’t know who you were, we were just protecting ourselves,” he replied calmly.

“Johnson, did you discharge your weapon?”

“No sir, your orders were last resort only.  When I saw Frye’s men watching us from the road across that field, I waved to them.  At that, they mounted up and came at me weapons hot.  Seeing as I was by myself out here, I thought it wise to find cover.  That’s when you came out.”

“Frye, get in your truck.  Turn around, and go back to your base.  If you approach another of my men with weapons drawn, they have orders to fire.” Bookbinder ordered. “Johnson, did you hear that?”

“Sir, yes sir. Fire at will.” replied Johnson.

“Go now Frye.  You may come by the farm tomorrow at noon if you’d like to discuss this incident with my command.  Do not make the mistake of spying on us again.”  Charlie backed away from the fence as Frye and his men got in their truck, backed out of the spot and took off.

“Garrett, Hostetler, stand down!” Bookbinder called without turning towards the building.

“Sir, yes sir.” Garrett and Hostetler stood up from their prone positions on the roof.

“What’s the situation up there boys?”

“Radio amplifier and broadcast antenna are disassembled, ready to be lowered down, sir.”

“Nice work fellas.  Really top notch work here today,” replied Bookbinder.

“Johnson, did you see anything else out of the ordinary?”

“Sir, we had attracted a few zombies, 10 or 15 standing at the fence.  No real worry, none were near the gate or making any move to go.  About 10 minutes before I saw Frye, they turned their heads and started walking off that way.”

“That’s the propane depot,” replied Bookbinder.

“Men! Double time!” yelled Bookbinder, running inside to grab the swat truck.  Frye showing up, zombies heading towards Tookes and crew.  His soldiers sense told him something was wrong.  A few seconds after that, he heard Tookes’ voice in his head say “There are 200 more coming, and maybe more behind that.  I suggest we go to weapons and end this.”

Bookbinder broke into a run, heading for the swat truck.  When he got there, Johnson right on his heels, Dalton Reineer was just finishing loading all of the weapons, ammo, and racks into the truck.  Bookbinder hit the garage door opener, hopped in and started the engine.  He backed it three quarters of the way out of the garage bay and put the truck in park.  He climbed up the ladder on the back of the truck as Garrett handed him the first piece of the antenna assembly.  Bookbinder then it handed down to Johnson on the ground.  They handed the six pieces of the assembly off the roof, then Hostetler and Garrett jumped down onto the roof of the truck.   Reineer backed out of the shop with them on the roof, when they passed the Explorer they came in, he stopped the truck so they could jump off the roof.

They parked about a hundred yards from the propane depot.  While they were jogging towards the gate, they heard a big truck engine roar to life.  They passed a huge group of zombies, maybe 1000 or more coming from way off in a field below the depot. They crossed the last few yards to the propane depot and saw the four of them, the group they called “Command” lined up like a group of super heroes making their last stand.

Leo was a joy to watch.  Marshall was fearless, wading into groups of zombies, keeping them at bay with those massive hammers he carried.  John was the best gunman Bookbinder had ever seen, and of course Tookes.  Charlie hadn’t quite figured out how Tookes was still alive, but he’d gotten the best of Watley and the best of that teleporting zombie at the battle on the front lawn, so he had to have something.  He was a good leader and Bookbinder respected him.

M1 advanced in the sideways crouch that they’d practiced.  They walked in a straight line.  At twenty five yards they took aim and fired. From then it was just aim, fire, aim, fire.  They killed all the zombies before they made it up to Tookes’ team.

“There are at least a thousand more that all turned their heads this way right before we heard that first engine start up.  We need to get out of here,” said Bookbinder, noting they had both big trucks running now.

End of the Sample

If you enjoyed the sample and would like to continue reading, What Zombies Fear: The Maxists is for sale ($2.99) on Amazon

2.04 Sniper

We loaded up in the trucks, Bookbinder and his crew in the swat van, Marshall in the disgusting rotting flesh propane truck, Leo in the other.  John drove the pickup truck full of equipment, and I led the way in the yellow jeep, and headed for home.

We drove slowly through town; I wanted to get a feel for how things were in Culpeper.  There were occasional pockets of undead, and as we passed, they would look up and start shambling our way.  We watched behind us, for the most part they stopped coming after us when we were half a mile or so ahead of them.  That was good to know, I was slightly worried they’d follow us all the way to our house.

On two occasions, the undead were blocking the road.  Both groups were around a dozen in a tight pack, walking down the middle of the road.  It was interesting to watch them, they seemed to mostly stick to the roads or sidewalks.  It was very seldom that they went through yards or grass, unless they were directly chasing something to eat.  Maybe the pavement was easier walking, I don’t know.  We were trying to save ammunition, and since we had both teams together, we were killing them with hand to hand weapons.  I was pretty confident in my “charge, sidestep, hatchet to the head” technique.

The stupid zombies never did anything differently.  They had one attack plan.  They walked towards you, grabbed at you, whatever part of you protruded or they could first get their hands on.  Last they tried to get their teeth into you.

Marshall, on the other hand, had adopted a smash and smash technique.  He smashed their hands with one hammer and then came across the temple with the other.  The corpses he left with his short handled sledge hammers all looked the same.  Mangled arms, smashed temple.

Leo of course was a dervish, she bobbed and wheeled around, slicing with her short swords, she seldom killed with a single strike, but she also seldom fought a single zombie.  She preferred to take them on in groups, whittling then down slice by slice as she weaved in between them.  John had collected all of the knives he found in the warehouse, just cheap case knives, but he could throw them from fifty feet or one foot away and put them in a zombie’s eye.  He worked the hardest to maintain the slightest distance, I’m sure he was deadly in close quarters, but he liked to have some room to work.

The surprise of the day was Bookbinder.  He moved with grace like Leo, and strength like Marshall.  He used a machete and a tire knocker, which looked a lot like a small wooden bat.  This small club was about 18 inches long and solid oak.  Charlie used it to steer the zombies, lining them up, controlling them.

On more than one occasion I watched him jam the miniature club in the mouth of a corpse and drive it to the ground, following that up with a quick thrust from his machete, which he’d ground to a point, instead of the usual rounded tip.  He was a normal, unaltered, every day human, but he was every bit a lifetime, career warrior.  All of my advantages, being able to read auras and being able to consider and see my opponent’s next move make me probably equal to Bookbinders natural combat prowess

Almost all of M1 carried the same weapons combination, and all of them fought with the same style, clearly Charlie had been training them.  Control first, kill second.  They all used their club as a blocking, driving almost shield like weapon.  On more than one occasion I saw them jam it in the mouth of a zombie at the last moment, saving their arm or a comrade’s arm from a bite.  These men were not immune, or if they were they didn’t know it, and yet they fought with the same fierceness, almost abandon with which the four of us did.

We stopped at the gas station before leaving town.  They had gasoline tanks buried in the front of the store; this was one of those mega convenience stores with 30 gas pumps and 10 diesel pumps.

“I just want to see what they have for now; we’re going to have to make another run out here.” I said.  “But first I’d like to figure out some way to store a large quantity of gasoline back at the farm.  I don’t want to have to make trips out here every couple of days.  And I don’t trust that others won’t either take all the gas or wreck it so no one can use it.  Let’s take an inventory of what’s here, I’ll be right back.”

The front doors of the convenience store had been blown apart, maybe by shotgun blasts or maybe from a vehicle, it was hard to tell from the mangled mess.  I stepped through the doorway crunching on broken glass.  Just inside the doors was a zombie with an ornately carved African looking short spear sticking out of its head.  On my way by, I yanked the spear free, and walked down the aisles carrying it like a walking stick. In the 2nd to last isle, I found what I was looking for, the M&M’s.  Max loved M&M’s.  He’d be thrilled to have some.  I took every bag of every flavor M&M, emptying the boxes of candy into my backpack.

I opened the refrigerator, and took a diet Mountain Dew off the rack.  It was hot.  Not just not cold, but hot.  I grabbed 3 more and added them to the top of the pack, before returning to the front of the store.  Behind the cash register, I grabbed three cartons of cigarettes, filling the rest of my pack with every flavor of menthol cigarette left on the shelves.  I walked back out in the late afternoon sun to see Marshall and John talking animatedly.

“Hey guys, what’s up?” I asked.

“Marshall says there’s ten thousand gallons of fuel here, across the 3 grades of gasoline you blokes have.  I don’t see how he gets to that number, by my calculations, there’s 38,000 liters.”

“John, that’s 10,038 gallons.” I said after a second’s calculation.  I grinned “We’re in America, use imperial measurements, the metric system is flawed.”

“Don’t make me beat you within 2.54 centimeters of ya life.” He replied with a smirk.

We all laughed, and we loaded back up in the trucks.

At the edge of the business section of town was the library.  It had been built only a few years before, during the housing boom of the early 2000’s, when tax revenue was high and the town felt like it had all the money in the world.  They’d spent $16 million dollars on that library, something that had disgusted me at the time.  Now I was grateful that it was there.  A huge 3 story stone building with triple pane UV protected bullet proof glass, surrounded by giant stone planters with huge trees growing in them.  The stone planters were big enough to stop a large truck, modeling the architecture of post 9/11 Washington DC.  The knowledge of mankind was safe in that building, and there it would stay, in the most protected place, until we were ready to go retrieve it.

The outside of Culpeper was ringed by residential neighborhoods. When the town had living people in it, the locals knew to cut through one neighborhood to get from the main road through town over to Route 15.  That route was my habit, and I instinctively turned into the neighborhood that day.  We were almost through that neighborhood when I heard a blood curdling scream.

Simultaneously all of the trucks came to a halt.  I grabbed my new spear as Leo and I dismounted the jeep and ran a hundred yards to see a man in shorts and a tee shirt get tackled to the ground.  He was screaming, trying to get away from what was left of a woman.  Six months ago she would have been a reasonably attractive girl.  She was wearing little tiny shorts that said PINK across her ass.  The pink shorts were stained brown, and she had a little bit of a white tee shirt left on.  Most of the shirt had been ripped away at some point, exposing her from the neck down.  Almost all the flesh was missing from her neck down, the bones of her rib cage shone in the last of the daylight.  Based on the amount of missing flesh around her midsection, I would say she’d been turned by several zombies feasting on her.  The tee shirt neck was still intact, and one sleeve.  The rest of it hung down her back, like a cape covered in dried blood.

We ducked back around the corner of large house with pale blue siding.  I stopped behind some prickly bushes, to take stock of the scene.

Leo started to charge in, but I grabbed her hand and stopped her.  Something didn’t seem right.  I quickly studied the scene.  There were no weapons on the ground nearby; the man had no back pack on.  ”Who would be smart enough to survive this long, and then leave the house without weapons or a pack?” I whispered to Leo.  ”Something is wrong.”

“He could have dropped them when he ran,” she said softly.  “He could have lost them.  He could have been asleep and they surprised him.”

“Sure, but something doesn’t feel right.  Do you feel it?” I whispered

“No, I see a man that needs help,” she whispered fiercely.

“Leo, he was dead the minute he got tackled.  There’s nothing we can do now except put him out of his misery.  This is wrong.  My gut tells me something is wrong.”

Into the throat mic, I whispered “Bookbinder, check out our position, head around behind the house, there’s something wrong here.  Have John and Marshall move up past the yellow house to our left, but circle over a block before coming up this way.”

Leo and I stood there, transfixed by the man’s screams.  ”Help!” He yelled as I poked my head around the corner “My name is Andrew Zione, Help!  I’m humaaa”.  His cries left off into a gurgle of screams as the zombie bit into his crotch, ripping meat from the inside of his leg, I could hear its teeth scraping Andrew’s thigh bone.

The thing pulled its head away dragging tendons with it like floss between the festering corpses teeth, blood spurted from Andrew’s leg wound.  The zombie chewed twice and swallowed the hunk of thigh meat.  The next bite the zombie took was Andrew’s manhood, ripping it away from his body, chewing slowly.  The screams raised several octaves and became louder, as the zombie dove in for a third bite, peeling the flesh away from his belly, allowing Andrew’s guts to slide out like links of raw sausage onto the grass.

“Fuck, how is he still alive?” I said.  The screams still haunt me.

“Vic, I… We… We can’t… This can’t go on.” Leo stammered.

“Leo, there’s something very wrong.  This is a setup, I can feel it.”

I considered running in there, a shadow shot out from my body.  When shadow-me got two feet from Andrew’s decimated body it’s head exploded, and it fell over sideways.

“There’s a sniper somewhere.” I whispered into the mic.

“Sir, M1 is breaching the houses to the south.  Marshall and John are heading around to the north.  We’ll find it.”

I tried to speak quietly using my subspace voice, focused entirely on John’s aura in my mind, attempting to speak only to him. “John, there’s a sniper that’s got us pinned here.  I can’t see him.  We can’t move.  Find him and take it out.

“Leo, did you hear me just then?”

“I didn’t hear a thing.”

“Yes, I was trying to talk directly to John.  I hope he heard me.”

Andrew kept screaming.  This girl was definitely being controlled by something, I’ve only seen a few zombie attacks like this one, mostly on that first day, but those zombies were ravenous, they bit and ate whatever parts came near their mouths.   These bites are being chosen to inflict the maximum pain without killing the victim.  The zombie girl moved upwards, leaving a trail of his guts lying on the grass.  She sat on his chest and took a bite of Andrew’s face, ripping his nose off.  Fresh blood spattered the ghoul’s face, as she sat up and slowly chewed, looking directly at us.  Andrew’s screams became wet, gurgling moans of pain.  He was writhing under her, but her knees held his arms pinned securely.

The rancid corpse turned around and put her ass on Andrews face as she reached into his belly and pulled out a rope of thick slimy guts.  I’d swear she looked directly at me and smiled before she bit his intestine in half.  Stinking bile, so strong we could smell it from our spot hiding under a bush leaked out of the intestine, down her chin, dripping into the man’s stomach cavity.

Andrew’s moans became quieter, muffled when the zombie sat down on his face, smothering his anguished cries.  Almost all of the undead we’d encountered had shit themselves, and of course they’d never bothered to clean up the natural release at death.  At least Andrew had no nose with which to smell the 6 month old rotting feces covered ass that was smothering him to death while the zombie ate his guts.  Finally the muffled moaning stopped completely.

At last, we heard a shot ring out from the south, followed by Bookbinder’s voice on the radio “Sniper terminated.  All clear sir.”

I stepped around the corner of the house, sig in my hand ready to put both corpses out of their misery.  When I get in sight of the bloody mess on the ground, there are no zombies to be found.  No footprints in the grass, no blood trail, no nothing.  Just a bloody, mashed down spot in the long grass, and a bit of intestine lying on the lawn.

“What the fuck?” I swore to myself.

Leo sobbed into my shoulder.  The horror of what we just saw was too much for even the tough Spartan woman.  I turned and hugged her tightly for a moment before we walked back to the jeep.

The ride home was quiet.  We saw no more zombies as we sped down the highway, paying no attention to the speed limit signs we passed.  It wasn’t likely we’d ever pass another car.

We spotted a herd of nine deer off to the side of the road.  In the rear view mirror I saw John point his pistol out the side of the truck he was driving.  As he did, I slowed the jeep.  He fired two shots, and two deer dropped over sideways where the stood.  The jeep bounced easily over the edge of the road and down a small bank.  The rest of the crew kept going the last two miles to the house as I pulled up to the two dead deer.

“Help me load these.” I said, hopping out the driver’s side of the jeep.

Leo stepped down off the other side, and said “Poor deer, never had a chance.  At least when I hunt I give them a sporting chance, I run them down.”

“Leo, these deer died to feed us.  They were never afraid, they never felt anything.  I’m grateful for the meat.  There is no sport in you running down a buck.  You can run 100 times faster than it can.” I chided.

Leo looked hurt, her face scrunched into a frown.  I stepped towards her, wrapping her in my arms.

“I’m sorry darlin’. I’m a little out of sorts from watching that guy Andrew, but I couldn’t risk your life for him, he was infected by the time we saw him.  I couldn’t risk you.  What if that sniper had been as good at shooting as John?  What if he shot you? I buried my head in her shoulder, and hugged her for a long time.

We loaded the two carcasses up on the hood of the Jeep, and headed for home.  It had been a long day, I was tired, and I still had to find out how The CVS and Clinic raids went, dress and process these two deer, and find some time to be a father to my little boy, who I missed very much at that moment.

2.02 Fuel

Bookbinder met us coming down the drive way when we were halfway up the hill.  We filled him in on the encounter with Frye while we walked up to the house.

“Sir, may I speak freely?”

“Of course you can, you can always speak freely around me Charlie,” I said.

“I’m not sure that was a good idea, he represents a significant asset to us, if we are allies.”  It was odd for Charlie to question me.  I liked that he was feeling free to do so, but it was very out of character for him.

“Charlie.  He has to have known about that horde for days.  We know he’s been watching this place.  I know he’s been studying us.  Hell, he watched me at the high school, listened to our radio conversation, and didn’t lift a finger to help.”

I pulled a notebook and pen out of my shirt pocket, and jotted down some ideas as I filled the others in on what we needed.

“We’re low on every type of fuel.  In Culpeper there’s a propane distribution plant.  It’s the priority, we need propane today.  We just used up the last of our diesel, but we don’t technically need diesel for a couple of days.  Least important of the top priorities, we’re going to need some gasoline,” I said.

“That doesn’t seem impossible,” said Charlie.

“Oh, there’s always more,” I said.  “After we fill up all the fuel tanks, then we head across town.”

Charlie started writing notes on his own pad as I continued, “On the north side of Culpeper there is a tractor trailer repair facility.  It must be a hundred thousand square feet, you can’t miss it.  It’s a gigantic steel building with somewhere around fifteen repair bays.  That building is going to be full of tools and supplies.  I know for a fact they have a tow truck with tools to do roadside repairs on big rigs.  Then, if they can’t fix them on the road they can tow them back to the shop.  I’m pretty sure there we can find supplies to fix the tires of the plow rig down on the highway.  It’s got at least 4 blown tires.”

“Do we really want to fix that one? We could just get a new one,” said Marshall.

“It seems easier to strip the wheels off another truck, and I like that one.  I’d like to beef it up a little, build some protection for the tires and driver, but that truck is already halfway there.  Seems silly to start over and have to source a new plow, and new frame.”

“Got it.  Vic likes the old beat up truck that almost got him killed,” Marshall said.

Ignoring that last barb, I continued, “The third objective is to secure any medical equipment and supplies we can find.  I’m not ready to go to the hospital yet, but there is a plastic surgery center in town, and several drug stores.  We’re going to need antibiotics and pain meds, but we’re also going to need cough syrup, aspirin, band aids, splints, and casts. I want to clean one of those places out too.”

“We’re gonna have a lot of competition for places like that from groups of survivors, mate.  Do we know if there are any other groups, besides Frye?” Asked John.

“I don’t know about any other groups, but I’d assume there are.  Maybe at some point we leave a message somewhere with how to contact us,” said Leo.

“That’s a good idea Leo.  Maybe we could leave a radio and a note behind or something.  If you need medical attention, go to the top of cedar mountain and broadcast at noon on channel 12,” or something like that.”

“I think it’s something to consider,” she replied.

“Charlie,” I continued.  “Regarding the medical equipment I’d like you to take charge of delegating to fire teams as you see fit.  I’d like you to personally oversee the big rig repair facility, while the four of us go after the propane.  The propane facility is half a mile from a minimum security prison; I’m worried about the number of zombies that could be in that facility.  Without power holding the doors shut, it wouldn’t be too hard to get out of there.  Plus securing that propane facility means we’ll be able to maintain ourselves throughout the winter, while we refit the property with wood stoves and repair the fireplaces.  Two hundred years of progress since this house was built, and we’re going back to the beginning.”

Charlie delegated M3; Leon Scott, Adam Jacobsen, Scott Humphries, Mark Shoenfeld, and Gary Burbank to the CVS, and M5; Shannon Johnson, Gordon Baker, Andrew Gallard, John Grieco, Kenneth Leuty to the plastic surgery center.  M5 was to take the f350 crew cab dually, and M3 was assigned a pair of Ford Explorers.

“Charlie, tell me about Leon Scott and the two guys leading M5” I asked, wanting to get to know the men a little bit.

“Leon is average height, about 5’10”.  He’s strong, and in good physical shape.  He has 5 years active military, and 2 years in the reserves.  He’s been training his team pretty hard, they’re really coming together.  I need them to get some field experience.  The CVS should be relatively free of undead, and there are several ways in and out of the parking lot.”

“Good call there, Charlie.  That’s why you’re a great leader,” I said.

“Shannon Johnson is young; he was almost finished at the academy to be a state trooper when all this went down.  He knows his way around a weapon, and is a good, smart kid.  I put Gordon Baker with him because Baker has 32 years experience as a law enforcement officer.  He was a sergeant in the state police, when he retired.  Anyone with that much time in law enforcement that’s only a sergeant either did something crooked or got in some sort of trouble.”

“Can we trust baker?  Do we trust someone with a crooked past?” I asked.

“He’s a good man, but I think Shannon is the one to be making quick decisions.  Baker is there to offer guidance and temper him.  They also need some operational experience.  Baker is in good shape, and can still outrun half the people here, so he’s got some discipline.”

“How long until the fire teams are ready to roll?” Marshall asked.

“They’re gearing up now.  They were on rotation to go out house clearing today.  If we didn’t have any other orders, we were going by standing orders, secure useful items, keep food coming in, keep training.”

“Ok, how about your team?  We’re going to be spread out throughout the town.  I have a special assignment for your team.”

“We can be ready in 5 minutes, Sir, anytime, anywhere.  What are your orders?”

“I want you and your men to check out the State Police Barracks.  This is a recon mission only, do not engage any hostiles, enter only if the area is clear and secure.  I want their armory, I want their communications equipment, the FM transmitter on their roof plus all the radios in their cars, I want vests and automatic weapons, and I want their SWAT truck.  Your secondary mission is to provide backup to m3 or m5 as quickly as possible.” I said

“As I see it,” I continued, changing the topic. “We have at least 2 major players in the area.  I’m not certain about Frye; he could be up to anything, so I’m looking for any information on him, what he’s doing, where he’s going, and how many people he has.”

“Do you think he’d attack us?” Asked Bookbinder.

“I’m not sure.  I’m not sure we have anything he needs, and I don’t think he’s bloodthirsty, just slightly underhanded.  I’m pretty certain I pissed him off though.”

“You have a knack for that, ya dink,” said John with a grin.

“Secondly, I believe a smart zombie had to have organized that huge horde of walkers we killed.  If there is, he’s going to be pissed,” I said.

“Once again,” started John.

I cut him off, before he could call me a ‘dink’ or a ‘drongo’ again.  I think a ‘drongo’ is worse than a ‘dink,’ but I still haven’t quite nailed it down.  “It’s now 9:30, the four of us will be ready to roll in an hour.  I’d like for you, M1, M3, and M5 to roll before 10:00, so in case any of you need backup we can swing by on our way in,” I said to a nodding Charlie.  “Stay in radio contact, and try to conserve ammo.  We’re getting low again unless you score something pretty major at the state police barracks, we need to stay fast and stay quiet, escaping attention.”

Charlie and I stood up, and the rest of the table followed.  We shook hands, and Charlie left quickly with the mission notes we’d scribbled.  He was a good man, I’m not sure I could handle all the details that he deals with.

The four of us left to go gather our gear.  Bookbinder had his teams on constant alert.  We were slightly more lax up here in the main house, something we should probably learn from him.  It took me five minutes just to find clean socks.  Soon after that I was geared up and ready.   It took just over fifteen minutes.  I rationalized that by telling myself if life depended on speed, I could wear dirty socks.

Since I had a few minutes, I used a few to play with Max, it was likely that I wouldn’t see him until after bedtime, and I cherished my Max time.  Today we worked on a puzzle with characters from the movie Cars, and then played with his Buzz Lightyear and Woody action figures.

“Daddy, I love you.  If you see the army man again today, you shouldn’t talk to him.  He’s very mad.  Why’s he so mad?”

“Well, he wasn’t honest with me, he lied.  I believe he tried to hurt me, so I punched him in the nose,” I said plainly.

“Daddy, we don’t hit friends, even mean friends,” scolded Max, his face very serious.

“I know buddy. I made a bad decision; it wasn’t the right thing to do.” I said.  “I have to go to work now, and get some propane so Gramma can cook supper.  I’ll be back tonight, but it won’t be until after your bedtime.

“Ok, but watch out for the badguys, they’re looking for us.”

“Max, can you tell me how you hide us?  Can you tell me how to hide myself?”

“Sure, Daddy, it’s easy.  You just turn your colors off, and they’ll think you’re one of them.”

“Oh, Ok.” I replied.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, but I’ll be home tonight while you’re asleep Ok Maxmonster?”

“Ok, I love you.” Max said, giving me a huge hug.

The four of us were pretty intimidating figures walking out of the house together at about 20 minutes after 10.  John bristled with guns; I think he added another gun to his vest every day.  Leo with her short swords crossed over her shoulders and batons at the small of her back.  Marshall carried his pair of sledge hammers with the heads riding on his shoulders, the shortened handles down his back in an X under his pack, and a shotgun sticking out of the top of his pack.  I swear he got physically bigger when he got infected, or more specifically as his body fought off the infection.  He was always tall, at about six four when we were younger, but I think he was close to 7 feet now.  His pants were all too short, I think that’s why he’d cut them all off into shorts.

I tried my best to fit in, my abilities were less useful in combat, so it was hard for me to feel quite as badass as my companions must.  I carried my Sig in a thigh holster I took off a zombie at the high school and Sammie, my trusty 30.06 scoped hunting rifle, strapped to my back.  Somehow, somewhere John had found me a bunch of twelve round magazines for it.  At the last minute I stuck a hatchet in my pack, handle up.  I didn’t have a go-to hand to hand weapon, but I felt like I should have something.  We loaded up in my favorite yellow Jeep Wrangler, and headed for town, the huge 36 inch super swampers humming as we drove down the road.

We parked the jeep about half a mile from the propane depot.  It had two 250,000 gallon tanks behind the building.  The whole property was surrounded by an eight foot high chain link fence topped with another two feet of razor wire.

We all had our usual packs on, but by now we were in good enough shape to jog the distance without too much trouble.  I’d suggested that we carry bolt cutters, but from the look Marshall gave me I let the subject drop.

When we got to the propane depot, Leo offered to run a quick circuit around the perimeter.

“Watch out for bunnies,” I said with a smirk.

She shot off, and before I finished chuckling, she was back.

“There are 2 zombies, each in the cab of a truck.  I don’t think they are able to figure out how to get out of the truck.  I didn’t spend a lot of time looking in the windows, but I didn’t see any inside the building as I went by.  There is a group down the hill out in the field to behind the depot, but they’re a quarter mile off, if we can avoid guns or excessive noise they shouldn’t give us any trouble.”

Marshall reached one hand forward and crushed the Master Lock padlock in his fist, the chains fell apart and we opened up the gates, closing them behind us.  I was reminded of that old TV commercial where they shot a Master Lock three times and it still held.  Clearly they hadn’t designed that lock to be Marshall proof.  I looped the chain back around the fence; it was enough to make it look like it was still locked before we headed towards the office.

We spent several minutes quietly tapping on the window glass and softly knocking on the doors before we decided the place was clear.  Both doors to the office were locked, but one of the high windows was slightly cracked open.  The bottom of the window was about even with the top of my head.  While Marshall was on the other side of the building, I got my fingers in and slid the window the rest of the way up.  When Marshall got around to my side, he laced his fingers together and squatted down.  I put my foot in his hands and he practically launched me into the building.

I came down on the inside on my head and saw stars.  I sat up, legs out in front of me feeling all over the back of my head for blood.  It took me a couple of seconds to shake off the dizziness.

“Sorry!” was his loudly whispered apology from outside.

Eventually able to get to my feet, I unlocked the door, allowing the other three into the small office.  There was a payment window at the end of the little lobby we were standing in.  To the right was a showroom.  There were hundreds of gas appliances, from wood stoves to gas logs, to ranges.  There were even propane powered refrigerators.  In the back of the showroom I found what I wanted, 3 large heaters that didn’t require venting the exhaust to the outside.

Leo and John moved off towards the back warehouse, while Marshall and I headed towards the office.  I was hoping to find the lockbox where they kept the keys to the delivery vehicles.  Marshall and I found a medicine cabinet sized steel box mounted to the wall by the back door.  He really was getting strong.  He braced his thumb against the door of the key cabinet, and his four fingers against the wall, and literally flipped the door open with just his thumb.

“Showoff,” I said.

“I was trying to be quiet!” he replied.

Inside there were six sets of keys.  Two of them were large Volvo keys those had to be for tractor trailer rigs.  One of them was a ford key.  I grabbed all 3 sets, hoping the ford key was to a pickup.  I’d forgotten that this place had such an extensive showroom, and was excited about the prospect of picking up energy efficient, reliable heat for the housing above the barn.

“John, Leo, do you copy,” I said into the throat mic of the radio on my belt.

“Tookes, what is this, the military?” Joked Leo.

“Right… Shut up.  Seemed like the thing to say,” I said. “Do you see any large generators back there? What about vent-free heaters?”

“Right-o mate, there’s about six gennies and a dozen heaters back here,” was John’s response.

“Alright, you two figure out how to get the loading dock doors open, Marshall and I will find a truck and get it backed up to the dock.”

Marshall and I headed for the back exit.  I hit the breaker bar on the door in stride.  I felt a little extra resistance as I plowed the door open, causing a zombie in the remnants of a gray pinstripe suit to go stumbling backwards.  Before I could reach back to pull the hatched I grabbed for this trip, Marshall shouldered past me knocking me around behind the door and smashed the thing with a huge hammer.  The hammer liquefied the creature’s skull, making a gruesome dull wet thud.  Bits of brain and skull splattered the inside of the door.  The corpse was launched backwards by the power of the blow, landing on its crushed head.  Its legs flipped up over its head, folding it in half with a crack of its spine.  I could smell the putrid gore like the whiff of a rotten fart running down the door and the wall next to me.

Marshall had cut the handles of his hammers off halfway, sanded the ends, and stuffed a thick nylon strap through the handle.  He was now holding a hammer in each hand, and stepped out into the yard. I let go of the door, and watched it swing shut.

“Shit, where did they come from?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I got this,” replied Marshall confidently.  “I’ve been working on a new trick.”  He started swinging one hammer by the nylon strap, spinning it so fast it made a low bass whirring noise, like those Australian noise makers.  John called it a didgeridoo once when I referred to it as a boomerang on a string.  At that same time he referred to me as a drongo.  Still not sure what that means.

In one smooth motion he let the hammer go, and watched it smash through the faces of four zombies in a row, completely decapitating the first three, and caving in the skull of the fourth.  The corpses fell backwards against each other like dominoes, landing in a heap of vile flesh.  He switched his other hammer to his right hand, and began spinning it like he had the first.  Marshall used his left hand to pick the corpse of the smash-faced zombie up by one foot.  He let out a soft grunt as he slung it into the group of undead staring at us with that same vacant hunger-lust in their eyes.  There was a line of them steadily streaming through a hole in the fence behind this group.

I heard a crash behind us, as the fence caved in on the other side of the yard, and another group headed towards us from behind.

“Leo, John.  We’re going to need some help.” I said into the mic, drawing my hatchet and pistol.

“Aww shit, Vic.  It’s only a few,” complained Marshall finishing a golf style swing, which launched the top jaw and most of the skull of a zombie over the fence.

“Only takes one.” I said.

“Not for us.  Well, maybe for you.”

Leo and John got the door to the loading dock open at the other end of the building.    John was holding a cardboard box full of cheap five dollar buck knives, still in the plastic packaging.  He threw the first knife, package and all at the farthest zombie from us.  When the package hit the zombies head, the knife kept going, slicing through its container and entering the brain stem of the zed.  He threw six more packages, dropping six more zombies the exact same way.  At the same time, Leo took off in a blur.  The easiest way to follow her was to watch the heads flying in the air in the wake of her destruction.  It reminded me of a combine harvesting corn, shooting out the ears into a hopper behind.  This was her go-to method of undead destruction, running down the line faster than they could grab for her, kukri extended at neck height, lopping their heads off as she ran past.

“Hey Leo,” yelled John.  ”I bet I can get that one before you!” He said throwing a packaged knife with deadly accuracy at the walking corpse of an old lady wearing only a long tee shirt style nightgown.  On the front of the nightgown was a picture of a cat, sitting down on a rug.  The caption read “The best cure for insomnia is a furry friend.”  She wasn’t wearing any undergarments, but should have been.  In life she must have weighed two-fifty or better.  Her tits sagged to her waist.

Not to be outdone, Leo poured on a burst of speed from clear across the grounds.  She chased down the flying knife, reached up and plucked it from the air while she was running, then speared the old lady through the middle of her forehead on the end of a short sword.  She lifted the handle of the curved blade, splitting the old lady’s face as the corpse slid to the ground, forever unmoving.

“Not fair!” yelled John.  He threw the last seven knives in one quick movement, including the cardboard box.  Each knife flew straight and accurate, out of the box.  Each blade buried itself in the forehead of its target.

“Jesus, John, how hard do you have to throw those knives to get them to stick in their foreheads?” I shouted, almost laughing. In unison the corpses fell to their knees and then toppled forward all at the same time.  Three of them came to rest face down with their heads inside the empty cardboard box.

“Catch those, Leo!” he laughed.

While John and Leo were playing with the first group, Marshall smashed through all the undead in front of us, and was wading through a sea of bodies towards the gap in the fence.  He bent down and retrieved the hammer he’d thrown in his empty left hand, and then brought the two hammer heads together.  I’m sure the sound of two giant heat treated high carbon steel hammer heads clanging together with that much force would had been deafening, except that there was a head between them to absorb the blow.  The skull exploded in a circle outward from the head in all directions, launching gore twenty five feet in the air.  Marshall had an almost perfect line of gray matter and blood from his crotch to his forehead.

About halfway to the broken segment of fence he stopped at a pallet of propane tanks, the kind for regular gas grills.  He picked one off the stack with one hand and hurled it like a football into the crowd of zombies.  The 25 pound tank pushed a crowd of undead backwards towards the hole in the fence.

Feeling fairly useless, I walked around towards the front of the building, stepping over parts, the carnage was really amazing.

My radio crackled in my ear “Tookes, this is Bookbinder; we’re coming up that way.  I can see your location from the top of the police headquarters; there is a group of 200 or more heading your way.  What are you guys doing?  This horde was heading towards us, we had to do a little shooting.  They stopped mid-step, turned around and started walking towards you. “

“I don’t know, I said, we’re being fairly quiet.  We’ve got about 150 here we were killing hand to hand.”

His reply was short, “You took on 150 hand to hand?”

2.03 Rescue

“Yea, we’re blowing off a little steam.  We’ve about got this cleaned up but I’ll let them know that the locals seem to know we’re here.”

Hey!” I yelled with my newly acquired subspace voice.  I don’t really know what to call that voice, when I yell loud enough that people hear it in their heads, not just with their ears.  I was always a fan of Star Trek, so subspace seems to be the closest thing I can think of.  It came out loud enough for everyone within 2 miles to hear.  I needed to work on controlling that, or finding out if that was possible.

There are 200 more coming, and maybe more behind that.  I suggest we go to weapons and end this.”  When I spoke, every zombie in the place turned to look at me for a moment.  They lowered their hands to their sides, and stared directly at me.  In unison their heads tilted slightly to the side, before they started walking towards me.  I guess they could hear me too.

Gunfire broke out from all over the propane depot yard.  I heard Marshall’s shotgun and John’s pistols decimating walkers.  I fired my own Sig through three magazines, and loaded the fourth before there was a break in the action.

The four of us came back together outside the depot office.

“I probably should have covered this before, but does anyone know how to fill one of these trucks with propane?” I asked.

“I would bet there is a fill tube, and a valve somewhere.” offered John somewhat less than helpfully.

“Good, that makes you the expert.  Figure it out,” I replied unable to keep from grinning.

“Marshall, Leo, find trucks with keys.  I want two full gas tankers at the house.”

Marshall and Leo left to find trucks that worked with the keys they had, while John sauntered over to the huge propane tanks.  John was one of those guys that could look at anything and figure out how it works.  Marshall and Leo opened the door to one of the trucks, a zombie fell out.  His entire body was swollen up like a balloon, it must have reached 150 degrees in the cab of that truck several times over this summer, and it hadn’t been good for this corpse.  He literally popped when he hit the ground, his skin splitting all the way up his back.  Only his shirt kept its liquefied innards from escaping.  Marshall smashed his now deflated head with a hammer and stepped up on the gas tank step to get in the truck.   Instead of sliding into the driver’s seat, he immediately got out, retched and vomited up his entire lunch all over the already rotten corpse.

“Oh god,” I overhead him say, “I’m not sure I can stay in that truck.  Let’s go open the other door, find your truck, and see if it airs out some.”

They walked over to the other truck, which thankfully didn’t have a rotten ghoul in it.  Leo climbed up into the cab, while Marshall walked to the back of the truck.  ”Push in the clutch and put it in first gear Leo!” He yelled up to the cab.  Then with what looked like very little effort, Marshall shoved the truck towards the filling area.  “Let out the clutch!”

She popped the clutch, and the truck sputtered.  The engine turned over twice before it roared to life, and took off.  She drove it a lap around the yard, and left it idling by the fill station.  She moved at what had to be her top speed to the second truck, it was nearly instant.  The only way to know she’d moved was the trail of dust rising up into the sky, as far as my eyes could tell, she disappeared at one truck and reappeared at the other.

Either the second truck had aired out some, or Leo was a little tougher than Marshall, because she hopped up in the truck as Marshall pushed that one up the hill.  With one shove, the truck went zero to 25 miles per hour uphill.  Marshall didn’t even grunt.

Just as that truck started, I heard the crash of chain link behind me.  When I ran around the other side of the building, I skidded to a halt.  Easily 300 more zombies had pushed over the fence, and were now coming our way.

“Guys!  More, front gates!” I yelled running back around the building.  I had one more full magazine for my pistol.  I had several for the rifle.  I raised Sammie to my shoulder and started mowing down zombies as fast as I could cycle the bolt.  Which I’m sure was a tenth as fast as John could, but he had his own guns.  Twelve shots netted me eleven dead zombies.  Replace the magazine, twelve more shots, and ten dead zombies.  By then, they had closed to within twenty yards, so I switched to the pistol.  I fired of its twelve shots.  At thirty feet I was faster and as accurate with the pistol.  When they were ten feet away I holstered my now empty sidearm and drew the hatchet attached to my pack.  Marshall was twirling both hammers.   John had both of his guns holstered and was reloading magazines, his hands a blur as he pulled bullets out of every pocket and pouch.

Leo was standing in line with us, her short swords drawn.  We looked like a line of heroes about to fight their last stand when suddenly the first row of undead collapsed in a hail of bullets.  I looked to the left; there was Bookbinder and his team, laying down cross fire. He’d come at this horde from the flank, his men were decimating them.  We were all out of ammo except John, and I think he was getting low.  John typically carried a thousand rounds on him, one of the reasons he preferred the smaller and lighter .22 and .9mm calibers.  They were so much lighter than 30.06 or .45 calibers, the magazines were half the size, and John was just as deadly with the smaller bullets.

When this latest wave was dead, Bookbinder, Reineer, Hostetler, Garrett, Johnson came walking up.

“There are at least a thousand more that all turned their heads this way right before we heard that first engine start up.  We need to get out of here, quickly.”

“I’ve got the filling figured out I think Tookes.  But we need power.” said John.

“Alright, let’s get out with what’s in the trucks.  Marshall, do you have any idea if there was anything in them?” I asked.

“The retched smelling one was way heavier than the first one.  I think the first one might be close to empty, but I think the last one was pretty full.”

“Ok, let’s go with that, we need to grab a truck to load the generators, heaters, and more propane.  Leave one generator in the warehouse to power the fill equipment, and we’ll be quieter.” I said.

We loaded up in the trucks, I noticed Marshall was somehow faster than Leo to the ‘non stinky’ truck.  I hopped into the passenger seat of the rancid truck with Leo, but I only had to ride with her to the jeep.

Less than three minutes later, John pulled out with a pickup truck loaded with five propane generators, six vent-free heaters, and three propane powered stand lamps, like old-time gas burning street lamps.

When Leo and I got to the jeep, Bookbinder’s team hopped off the back of the tanker trucks and got into a pair of police cars and the swat van.

“Holy crap Charlie, you got the swat van!”

“Sir.  That was my mission, sir.  We had to engage very light hostiles, the police barracks was empty, save 3 infected in the holding cells in the drunk-tank.  We ended those three, and had the run of the place.  This big heap,” he said as he pounded the sides of the swat van, “Was the only thing that would carry the radio repeater, so we had to take it.”

I grinned at Charlie “Nice work M1.”

Charlie beamed a smile back at me, and his men looked proud.

“What about m3?  How are they doing at the CVS?” I asked.

“Scott reported that they had no problems.  They were supposed to radio if they had any contact, they checked in about twenty minutes ago that the only infected they saw turned around and started stumbling this way.” replied Charlie.  “His second, Jacobsen will have a full list of supplies when they report back, but Scott said the CVS had not been scavenged before.”

“And m5? Did they have any trouble at the clinic?”

“No, Johnson reported three contacts with infected.  They killed those three with hand to hand weapons when they breached the building.  The few they saw wandering towards the clinic turned around and left before they got within melee range.  They were also successful in loading up diagnostic equipment and prescription drugs,” said Charlie.  “They found over seven hundred Percocet tablets in the doctor’s desk.”

I laughed out loud, “That’s too funny.  Doc had a monkey on his back.”

yes’>�Y/p��� �s wrong.  My gut tells me something is wrong.”

 

Into the throat mic, I whispered “Bookbinder, check out our position, head around behind the house, there’s something wrong here.  Have John and Marshall move up past the yellow house to our left, but circle over a block before coming up this way.”

Leo and I stood there, transfixed by the man’s screams.  ”Help!” He yelled as I poked my head around the corner “My name is Andrew Zione, Help!  I’m humaaa”.  His cries left off into a gurgle of screams as the zombie bit into his crotch, ripping meat from the inside of his leg, I could hear its teeth scraping Andrew’s thigh bone.

The thing pulled its head away dragging tendons with it like floss between the festering corpses teeth, blood spurted from Andrew’s leg wound.  The zombie chewed twice and swallowed the hunk of thigh meat.  The next bite the zombie took was Andrew’s manhood, ripping it away from his body, chewing slowly.  The screams raised several octaves and became louder, as the zombie dove in for a third bite, peeling the flesh away from his belly, allowing Andrew’s guts to slide out like links of raw sausage onto the grass.

“Fuck, how is he still alive?” I said.  The screams still haunt me.

“Vic, I… We… We can’t… This can’t go on.” Leo stammered.

“Leo, there’s something very wrong.  This is a setup, I can feel it.”

I considered running in there, a shadow shot out from my body.  When shadow-me got two feet from Andrew’s decimated body it’s head exploded, and it fell over sideways.

“There’s a sniper somewhere.” I whispered into the mic.

“Sir, M1 is breaching the houses to the south.  Marshall and John are heading around to the north.  We’ll find it.”

I tried to speak quietly using my subspace voice, focused entirely on John’s aura in my mind, attempting to speak only to him. “John, there’s a sniper that’s got us pinned here.  I can’t see him.  We can’t move.  Find him and take it out.

“Leo, did you hear me just then?”

“I didn’t hear a thing.”

“Yes, I was trying to talk directly to John.  I hope he heard me.”

Andrew kept screaming.  This girl was definitely being controlled by something, I’ve only seen a few zombie attacks like this one, mostly on that first day, but those zombies were ravenous, they bit and ate whatever parts came near their mouths.   These bites are being chosen to inflict the maximum pain without killing the victim.  The zombie girl moved upwards, leaving a trail of his guts lying on the grass.  She sat on his chest and took a bite of Andrew’s face, ripping his nose off.  Fresh blood spattered the ghoul’s face, as she sat up and slowly chewed, looking directly at us.  Andrew’s screams became wet, gurgling moans of pain.  He was writhing under her, but her knees held his arms pinned securely.

The rancid corpse turned around and put her ass on Andrews face as she reached into his belly and pulled out a rope of thick slimy guts.  I’d swear she looked directly at me and smiled before she bit his intestine in half.  Stinking bile, so strong we could smell it from our spot hiding under a bush leaked out of the intestine, down her chin, dripping into the man’s stomach cavity.

Andrew’s moans became quieter, muffled when the zombie sat down on his face, smothering his anguished cries.  Almost all of the undead we’d encountered had shit themselves, and of course they’d never bothered to clean up the natural release at death.  At least Andrew had no nose with which to smell the 6 month old rotting feces covered ass that was smothering him to death while the zombie ate his guts.  Finally the muffled moaning stopped completely.

At last, we heard a shot ring out from the south, followed by Bookbinder’s voice on the radio “Sniper terminated.  All clear sir.”

I stepped around the corner of the house, sig in my hand ready to put both corpses out of their misery.  When I get in sight of the bloody mess on the ground, there are no zombies to be found.  No footprints in the grass, no blood trail, no nothing.  Just a bloody, mashed down spot in the long grass, and a bit of intestine lying on the lawn.

“What the fuck?” I swore to myself.

Leo sobbed into my shoulder.  The horror of what we just saw was too much for even the tough Spartan woman.  I turned and hugged her tightly for a moment before we walked back to the jeep.

The ride home was quiet.  We saw no more zombies as we sped down the highway, paying no attention to the speed limit signs we passed.  It wasn’t likely we’d ever pass another car.

We spotted a herd of nine deer off to the side of the road.  In the rear view mirror I saw John point his pistol out the side of the truck he was driving.  As he did, I slowed the jeep.  He fired two shots, and two deer dropped over sideways where the stood.  The jeep bounced easily over the edge of the road and down a small bank.  The rest of the crew kept going the last two miles to the house as I pulled up to the two dead deer.

“Help me load these.” I said, hopping out the driver’s side of the jeep.

Leo stepped down off the other side, and said “Poor deer, never had a chance.  At least when I hunt I give them a sporting chance, I run them down.”

“Leo, these deer died to feed us.  They were never afraid, they never felt anything.  I’m grateful for the meat.  There is no sport in you running down a buck.  You can run 100 times faster than it can.” I chided.

Leo looked hurt, her face scrunched into a frown.  I stepped towards her, wrapping her in my arms.

“I’m sorry darlin’. I’m a little out of sorts from watching that guy Andrew, but I couldn’t risk your life for him, he was infected by the time we saw him.  I couldn’t risk you.  What if that sniper had been as good at shooting as John?  What if he shot you? I buried my head in her shoulder, and hugged her for a long time.

We loaded the two carcasses up on the hood of the Jeep, and headed for home.  It had been a long day, I was tired, and I still had to find out how The CVS and Clinic raids went, dress and process these two deer, and find some time to be a father to my little boy, who I missed very much at that moment.