Charlie drew his pistol and looked out over the farm. He was on a ridge, about three hundred yards from the wall Victor had built. It was impressive. Victor, unlike his friends, had never given up, never stopped believing that one day the zombies would come. And he was right. That day was today. The day he got Victor Tookes. Bookbinder had memories of Tookes, and of Max.
The E’Clei queen attached directly to Charlie’s brain stem bristled at the thought of the child. Bookbinder shivered, and went over the plan in his mind. They had tens of thousands of soldiers just over the rise outside of the hourly patrols. Tookes had six teams patrolling the wall every hour. Four separate squads ran scouting routes every four hours, but after nearly six months of sending soldiers in ones or twos at the house, those routes were never the same. Leave it to Victor to plan chaos.
The soldiers were grouped into five battalions of two-thousand. For each fifty soldiers, there was a Lieutenant, and for each twenty Lieutenants was a Councilman. “Ten thousand zombies, two hundred supers, and ten Councilmen,” said Charlie to himself, reverting back to the human terms for E’Clei. “It’ll be enough.”
“We hope so,” droned the ten councilmen standing behind him in unison. “The child cannot be allowed to escape this time.”
They waited throughout the cool, drizzly afternoon, until the appointed time. At exactly six o’clock in the evening, eastern standard time, twelve attacks would be carried out simultaneously. Six here in what was The United States, three in China. Tookes and his friends were the primary targets, but there were groups like this throughout the world, immunes that had come together to protect small communities of humans. Bookbinder had planned this night for twelve years. Tonight he solidified his position as Queen, tonight he would take control of this world as his predecessors had failed to do.
Inside the house, Sharon was busy supervising the kitchen crew. These days not everyone ate in the dining hall, having built houses of their own. Many people ate in their own house with their family these days, but everyone came to the hall several times per week. It was what drew the community together. Sharon’s dining hall, a remodeled, refurbished indoor riding ring, embodied the spirit of the town. Everyone worked together, for the common good. No one was paid a wage or a salary, everyone split the fruits of their labor evenly. The town lived or died together.
Sharon didn’t do much actual cooking anymore. After years of working under her watchful eye, the men and women who volunteered to cook with her were well trained. She always suspected that after her seventy-fifth birthday, Victor had asked people not to let her work so hard anymore. She was grateful for the rest. It was harder and harder to get up every day, but she still felt a need to be active and involved.
“Joseph darling, that bechamel is going to break, don’t stop whisking,” she called out to a burly man with a long red beard. “And make sure not to get any whiskers in it!”
“Yes Ma’am,” he replied, whisking harder than ever, despite the burn in his muscular arm.
“Andrea, how are the torts?”
A tall woman with fine features and close cropped, dark hair checked a timer hanging around her neck. “Four minutes, Ma’am.”
“Wonderful. Thank you all for your hard work,” she said, plunging her hands into the dish sink. She scrubbed a few pans, happily watching the commotion. Even now, she was the last one to leave the kitchens, never going to bed before every surface was scrubbed, every pot and pan put away, every knife sharpened, and every scrap of left over food either sent to the men on the walls, or to a house with a sick person, or stored away in the deep underground cellar.
She was carrying a large ladle over towards the soup tureens when she heard the bells. Deep, loud bells ringing, first from the north, soon followed by the rest lining the walls.
“Oh my,” she said to herself, quickening her step. She moved as quickly as she could, covering all the food before retreating back towards the manor house. She could hear constant gunfire from the walls all around her. From all over the farm, children came streaming up into the manor.
“Kaylin, where’s your brother?”
“He’s right behind me. He was loading magazines for Mr. Davis.”
“Thank you, please go into the library and help keep all the smaller children calm. I’ll be right in,” Sharon said.
The house shook as the first set of explosives outside the wall were triggered, and then another and another, until all six lines were blown. Starting twenty yards from the gate, Victor had buried explosives in lines every ten yards. The blasts were designed to push an attacking force back, if something ever got close enough with enough strength to threaten the iron gate. The gate itself was twenty feet high, made of two inch steel straps woven together and welded. Behind the outer gate was a one hundred foot run, wide enough for two cars side by side, ending with a stone portcullis even Marshall couldn’t lift. It had taken Marshall and Markus, plus a crane to lift it into place, high above the second entrance. Once it was down, nothing on earth could move it.
As Sharon counted the last child entering the Manor, she saw the house guards streaming up to the manor. She quietly closed the door and moved into the library. Some of those children were going to lose someone they cared about tonight. They needed her more than Victor’s men did. She sat down in her leather chair and opened up a book. “The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster,” she read. “This was Victor’s favorite book when he was a boy.”
“Mrs. Tookes, when will Victor be back?”
“I don’t know, Lydia,” she replied kindly before continuing, “There was a boy named Milo, who didn’t know what to do with himself– not just sometimes, but always.”
Sharon read on, throughout the siege keeping the children’s minds busy, keeping them from worrying about the gunfire, even when it was right outside the house. She and her son had chosen this room very deliberately. The library was lined from floor to ceiling with books, tightly packed into the shelves. There were no windows in the room, but two doors left them with an exit, in case one of the two steel fire doors was breached.
The battle raged on, outside the house and on the walls. Sharon knew from the distant gunfire that the zombies hadn’t breached the wall, it was impenetrable. The force there was just for show, the men up there were firing slowly, and all had small caliber rifles. Most of the defensive force was around the main house. Sharon knew Victor’s wall would hold the ocean at bay, but no wall could stop teleporters. A super could bring a force of twenty five or fifty zombies right up to the house, and she knew that was what they were doing now.
The men on the roof fired bursts down into the crowd of zombies arriving on the lawn with military precision. As soon as the super appeared with a load of zombies, the squads would mow them down. The squad leaders were trained not to fire at the zombies, but instead to watch for the super. On the second trip, all four squad leaders found and opened fire on the super.
All the men’s radios were silent, there wasn’t a need for communication, every single person knew their job. Victor’s home defense drills had made all of this second nature, even though it hadn’t ever happened before. There hadn’t been a zombie inside the walls since they were completed, but everyone in town knew it was only a matter of time. Victor knew that two hundred people couldn’t protect everything, so he’d designed his plans around protecting the most obvious targets, the manor house and the barn. Everything else could be rebuilt.
Upstairs in the house, six men took positions. The original antique windows of the house were stored safely in the attic, replaced two years ago by bullet proof glass in custom welded frames. Each window opened and closed like a normal window, but the center pane also opened to provide a small hole to shoot through. One man at each window and a sixth, Gerald Moore, standing back watching the room. His job was to watch the backs of the men shooting out the window.
Gerald never had a chance. Charlie Bookbinder appeared behind him and immediately put his hand on Gerald’s shoulder. Thousands of E’Clei poured out of Charlie’s thumb directly into the brain stem. He was paralyzed before he could even take a breath, and turned in less than a second.
“Where are Victor and Max.”
“We do not know. This one says they were not here.”
“Not here? Not fucking here! Twelve god damned years I planned this and they’re not fucking here?” Charlie yelled.
The five men at the windows turned and opened fire at the sound, but the bullets bounced off, completely ineffective. Charlie waved his hand at the men. Each slumped to the ground, blood running from his temples.
Charlie nearly screamed an order to his councilmen. “Find out where Victor and Max Tookes are. Now!”
Several seconds later one of the councilmen replied, “Lieutenants at the Georgia offensive report that they are there. And that that offensive has failed.” There was almost a smirk in the thought. “But that’s not possible,” Charlie thought to himself. “That’s a human trait.”
“Continue the Virginia assault. Burn the place down. I’m going to reinforce Georgia,” Charlie ordered, just before disappearing. Gerald Moore stood perfectly still, waiting for the right time.
Sharon read on. She recognized Charlie’s voice, but couldn’t place it. As she read about Milo and the literal Watch Dog, she wished Victor and Max were here. Her son inspired these people. Even if things got bad, they knew he would never stop fighting for them. Her little Victor, that cute little boy had grown up to be the finest man she could have ever hoped for, although she was sorry for the circumstances, she delighted in watching him with the people of the town. He was their leader. Fair, clever, and unwavering he led the people of this town without even knowing he was doing it. “I love you, Victor. I hope you and Max are safe, wherever you are,” she thought, hoping it would reach him, and still she read on.
The battle raged on outside for over an hour before Max was in her mind. “Gramma, I’m home. Dad went to get Kris and John, they’re under attack too. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine Darling Boy, please come in here and be safe,” she thought.
“I can’t. There are too many out here, they need me.”
And then he was gone from her mind. Sharon read on as Max strode down the front walkway of the house. He called softly to a man in an all black uniform, “Mister Gibson, Dad’s delayed. Where do we stand?”
“We’re holding. They sent a ton at the wall. We blew the gate charges, it took out almost one whole group. After that they didn’t really bother with the frontal assault. They knew they weren’t getting through the wall, Max.”
“Why would they waste that many soldiers?” asked Max. Gibson mused at how much the young boy was like his father. Always looking past what was in front of you, looking for the hidden agenda. In times like these, it was an important trait to possess.
“I don’t know. Seems like it was a distraction, but your father trained us to trust the walls,” said Gibson, shaking his head. ” Surely they knew zombies wouldn’t be able to breach them, and surely they knew we knew that. It makes my head spin.”
Max looked thoughtful for a moment. “How did the attack happen?”
“It was just like your dad said. When they come, they’re going to throw everything they have at the walls, and then send ‘porters in with small groups to get us from behind while we focused on the hordes outside.”
‘And we were able to handle the incursions?”
“No problems, Max. They landed in all the places we thought. We had guys waiting. Really, it started off like a well planned attack, then the whole thing just kind of fell apart.”
“Thank you for keeping my grandmother safe, and for defending our home, Mister Gibson.”
“It’s what we all do, Max. Glad you’re safe, glad our families are safe,” replied Gibson just as Max disappeared.
The view from the top of the north wall was incredible. Thousands and thousands of zombies, neatly lined up in rows standing perpendicular to the wall, arms length from each other. They weren’t pushing, snarling, grabbing hungry zombies like a normal horde. They just stood there. Just over the rise, Max could make out the auras of hundreds of people, running towards the zombies. Seconds later, like something out of a medieval war movie, a standard bearer cleared the hill carrying a long pole and the flag of the Maxists, followed by rows of people wearing white robes with a giant red “M” on the chest.
He stepped up onto the gravel filled trough to get a better view of the field below him. The religious nutjobs were about to crash into a full sized horde of undead, in an attempt to save him. But he didn’t need saving.
“None of this makes any sense. Those people are going to be destroyed because they believe I’m some kind of savior,” Max said to himself. “I can’t let that happen.”
He raised his hands up even with his shoulders, palms outward. As he did, a burst of psychic energy, a rolling blue wave formed at the base of the wall, spreading outward in an ever expanding semicircle. Nearly a thousand zombies turned to dust as the wave crested over them. The Maxists charging the horde came to a stunned stop, their battle cries silenced, as the zombies in front of them disintegrated before their eyes. Looking up at Max on the wall with his arms outstretched, several of them fell to their knees, prostrating themselves in front of the child they worshiped.
“You must be Max. We’ve been waiting for you,” said two men in unison directly behind Max.
Max realized this was Bookbinder’s plan all along. He was willing to sacrifice ten thousand of his soldiers just to draw Max out.
With all the confidence of a sixteen year old boy with super powers and a legion of worshipers could possibly have, Max kicked up a bunch of gravel as he lept off the trough. The rocks were already spinning around his head when he landed.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. Clearly you’re anxious to die,” he said, crooking his finger at the two zombies who’d spoken in unison. “Come on.”
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