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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:29 am 
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After an early breakfast, Rose stood in the yard looking up at the blue sky decorated with a scattering of puffy white clouds. The air was pleasant this morning, signaling the gradual end of the very hot summer days. She was excited at the thought of being in the air again, as she had been since she was a little girl. Most weekends as a child she had spent in the passenger seat of her father's plane, after her mother died. As was customary, everyone at the private airfield looked the other way when she began her training a year before the legal age. After jumping through all the legal hoops, Rose flew her solo flight on her sixteenth birthday and received her flight certificate before graduating from high school.

At college, while maintaining good grades, her spare time was spent at a nearby airfield. Rose did whatever tasks needed done in return for flight time. With her head literally in the clouds, her social life had always suffered. She was friendly with people, but had no close friends. The young pilot fretted at the delays in getting back home. She admitted to herself that she owed these people a large debt, but after a couple days of instruction she was out of here. No more delays. Rose jumped at the sound of someone clearing their throat behind her.

Trey and Joker stood waiting with innocent looks on their faces and she knew this would be a long day. At the estate she watched each man repeat the required pre-flight checks. Her comment on Joker's air of boredom was met with Trey's reply that Joker was a mechanical genius. The smaller man nodded in agreement. "I've operated every piece of construction equipment there is".

"Not at 13,000 feet you haven't", their instructor countered, which gave him pause.

Joker flew with Rose and Trey followed in the truck with their fuel supply. The bank robber slowed to look at the shot up truck, just down the road from the Venango airport. Each bullet hole was now surrounded by a circle of rust. Those events seemed like a long time ago, although it really wasn't. He stopped again to open the gate to the landing strip, when the plane he had assumed was waiting for him came in for a landing.

"Where have you been" the small man asked?

"It must be nice to have time for a sightseeing tour" Trey referred to the Cessna's late arrival?

"You would have loved it, nothing to see but empty country".

"Let's get this over with" Rose interrupted. "We're skipping some steps since you won't be flying at night, chatting with the tower or taking any tests. This is the steering wheel, it's called the yoke. Push it forward to go down, pull it back to go up. Turn it right and you roll out right, that means your right wing dips and the bird goes right. Same with the left. When you're taxiing it steers the plane with the front wheel".

"These are the instruments. Your airspeed in knots, that's 1.15 mph. The faster you go the more fuel you're burning. The altimeter tells how high you are flying. The heading indicator shows your compass heading. The vertical speed indicator says how fast you are climbing or descending. The artificial horizon shows if you are going up or down, left or right". Rose paused touching the remaining instrument "This is the turn and bank indicator that shows your rate of turn or bank. All I'm going to say is you need to land before it gets dark or the fog gets too thick. I can't teach you all this in two days".

"The rest are the throttle, fuel mixture, carburetor heater, flaps, fuel tank control, rudder pedals and control trim. Don't monkey around with the tank control, leave it set to both". Rose had the pair taxi back and forth on the runway and taxi lanes. The thief surprised her at how well he did, even though he had been watching her during takeoffs and landings, Trey was a little slower to pick it up, although both men were quick learners.

Lunch was warm soda pop, cheese, crackers and some questionable looking apples from last fall. They lay in the grass on the shaded side of a hangar. "This is boring, when do we get to the good stuff" Joker bugged the instructor. She ignored him and not long after that lady like snores issued from the still form. "We should move the plane" Joker said with an evil grin.

"As entertaining as that would be, we might never find out how to take off and land".

"I'm pretty sure I could do that right now. I've been watching real close when she flies".

"You mean all two times you flew with her"?

"It's clear you aren't a mechanical genius like me".

"Hey, when you're right, you're right" Trey shrugged.

"Seriously, I'm pretty sure I can take it up and land it. You don't even need half of those instruments, unless the weather turns to crap. So you land and wait it out" the thief said with a serious look on his face.

"We still need a plane and we never checked this place out".

"We could do that now" Joker suggested eagerly. Seeing his partner's look at the sleeping form, he added "She'll be fine. We checked the grounds inside the fence and the building are shut up tight".

The pair stood and walked to the nearest hangar. The thief popped the lock, then they slid back the right side of one of the hangar entrances. The large door groaned on un-oiled rollers, dust disturbed by the movement sifted down. Trey stepped back, however Joker stood waving his hands, causing the dust to swirl back up around his head. Coughing, the smaller man ran forward out of the cloud. The smell inside the building was of fuel and lubricants. The aircraft in front of them was missing it's prop and engine cowling, so they started down the building to look at the remaining planes.

The sleeper had awakened to the sound of the voices, remaining still, listening to the conversation. She almost spoke when the little weirdo said he thought he could fly from watching her. As the pair walked away the thought "I could go right now", jumped to the forefront of her thoughts. The pilot turned her head, watching her students go around the corner of the building.

She rolled to her feet, tossing the carbine that they insisted she always keep with her, into the plane. Seconds later, Rose was climbing into the back of the fuel truck. A five gallon can was already full of aviation fuel and sitting at the edge of the tailgate. She began pumping fuel into a second can as fast as the device allowed. Between trying to hurry and watching for the convicts to reappear, she spilled fuel and fumbled screwing the cap back on the can. Sliding the gas can onto the tailgate resulted in a metal against metal screech that made Rose wince. The sound not only set her teeth on edge, but may have also alerted her hosts.

Getting the five gallon cans off the truck was more in the way of a controlled fall than a lift. The pilot staggered toward her ride with a can in each hand. She had decided that carrying two, wasn't any worse than being off balance with just one container. Making several quick passes with shop towels from under the seat, removed the worst of the fuel spilled on the can, but not the smell. The cans had to be boosted into the plane one at a time, then moved to the rear before there was room to get the other inside. Secured to the brackets Trey had jury-rigged, the cans would stay in place for normal travel, but still become deadly missiles if she crashed again.

Rose paused for a moment, thinking about how heavy the cans were. What if she didn't land at an airport, but was stuck out on a road. How would she add fuel to the high wing tanks? Not to even mention that the onetime higher population of the coast where she was headed, also meant more undead creatures. Feeling guilty for the first time, she dragged the pump and hose from the truck and stuffed it in the back of the plane's cabin. The pilot rubbed her hands on the grass and then several shop towels, however they still stank of fuel.

The wheel chocks were the last item added to the load. The old style, wood, wedges were dumped onto the passenger seat. The pilot sat at the controls, with her eyes closed, taking deep breaths, getting her mind right. She extended her arms, shaking her hands once her eyes were open, completing a personal ceremony. The engine was still warm and fired right up. With the brake off, the Cessna rolled slowly on its own toward the runway, like an old draft horse following his route with little human intervention. Sure the convicts would be watching by now, Rose started her run, never looking back. The ground fell away beneath her wings, leaving her with a euphoric feeling of being on her own and free again. The aircraft climbed at a gentle rate, eventually making a long turn onto a southwest heading, across the mountains.

The criminals bypassed the twin engine bird by that was closest to the doors. The single engine next to it had a worn look to it. The paint job looked to have used left over house paint applied with a roller. The seats inside all showed once white stuffing through splits in the covers. A third plane had the right wheel and landing strut missing, replaced with an ominous red tag. The last spot was empty. "Awake at last", the thief commented when the sound of the engine penetrated the metal walled building. before the pair reached the opening, they could tell the source was moving. "That can't be good" the ex-soldier said what they were both thinking.

Their heads popped out into the sunlight momentarily, for a quick glance before ducking back inside. No dead were to be seen and nobody had fired any shots at them. Exiting the hangar, joker kept an eye to the rear while they covered the ground to the corner. The surroundings seemed to be clear, which didn't explain why the little Cessna had started it's take off. Joker stared after the retreating aircraft, startled when his friend called "She took the transfer pump and some cans".

"How rude" the little man called back.

"Perhaps she remembered an important appointment" Trey suggested innocently.

"Don't ask me to rescue any more pilots".

Several reanimated humans waited by the airport entrance, attracted by the activity. They followed the convicts along the fence, away from the gate, enduring the small man's insults. The smell from the dead, dispatched months earlier was inescapable. The stink was so bad it was almost a taste as well as a smell. Trey backed away from the fence about fifty feet, assumed a one handed target stance and squeezed off a shot. The target's ear separated from the head, to dangle by a thread of skin. The second shot was a clean miss. The third shot, made with concentration on the trigger struck the goon in its right eye, turning the rotten brain to mush. "I think I'm pulling to the left. But this sure isn't a target trigger. I used to be better at this." Joker grunted his disinterest at the technique displayed, marched up to the fence and blew the brains out of the last goon at a range of six feet. He did feel much better after returning the small group to their natural state.

Driving down the road the thief just had to say "Shooting like that is stupid, just use both hands".

"It's a skill. What if you don't have the use of both hands? Then with a smile "What if you get challenged to a duel"?

""Who is going to challenge us to a duel"?

"The way things are, I predict a return of dueling as a way of settling differences".

" More like a wild west gunfight at high noon, than pistols at dawn" Joker scoffed at the idea. "So, what do we do with the rest of the day" he changed the subject?

"We hang around the farm, do our part. Then tomorrow we finish checking out the house at the estate, walk the perimeter wall and then check out that little airport".

"Peach will be pissed when I tell her about Rose ditching us" Joker said, anticipating her reaction.

The two pairs of siblings greeted the convicts arrival at the farm. Loud "What did you bring us" was rewarded with a handful of fired handgun brass. Trey had them smelling the burned powder in the recently fired cases. Something he had always enjoyed at a young age, although shotgun shells were the best.

At supper that night Joker broke the news of Rose's departure. "You've heard of dine and dash, well this was fly and flee". Peach disappointed the thief, by not appearing to care.

"There's no such thing as Fly and Flee" Peach argued.

"It's a thing" Joker said defensively. "I'm much more in tune with the hip crowd, so I'd know".

Trey appeared to back up his friend up saying "All the teenagers that own planes are doing it these days", while rolling his eyes.

The subject of going to the estate was approved by everyone. Thompson, as always, volunteered to remain behind to watch over the place. The Swede was only going to ensure domestic tranquility, however Peach really wanted a day out. The youngsters played outside until dark, chasing each other yelling "dine and dash" or "fly and flee".

The next morning, the extended family piled into three vehicles for the trip. Thompson, who had never gotten over his fear of being outside the walls, had a rifle in his hands that he wouldn't put down until the others returned. Never having done any physical labor, he was slow as well as having to deal with sore muscles each night after his arrival. Now he was proud of being able to keep up with the Swede, no matter what the daily task was. The criminals recently had been training him with a weapon. The laborer was not only an OK shot, but could maintain the rifle as well. He had always been in favor of gun control and still found firearms distasteful, however the weapon did provide a degree of comfort while by himself on the farm. After they left, he sat in his room for an hour, staring at his old three piece suit and thinking about his life before things went to hell. The remainder of the day, Thompson sat in the shade of the porch when he wasn't walking the perimeter fence around the farm.

The estate looked different since the airplane they were used to seeing in the front yard was gone. Peach took the kids up to the barn until the house was finally cleared. Only the basement was left to be checked. Repeated knocks drew no response, so Joker jerked the door open, however the stairs were empty. The air smelled stale, but there was a trace of rot. The back of the stair treads were closed off with one by six pine boards, eliminating a view of what might lay in wait underneath. "How come I always have to do this" Joker griped?

The cellmates crept down, keeping their backs against the wall, flashlights and gun barrels pointing into the darkness. "Eeeeeeeyip" Trey called out, making his friend jump.

"Let me know before you do that" the small man complained.

"Sorry" the bank robber said, not sounding sorry at all. "I forgot how jumpy you are. You got to learn to relax buddy". The only reply was a growl from the smaller man. Boxes of different sizes lined the walls on neat shelves. Once the shelving was full, the owner just stacked his goods on the floor. The Swede moved to a new post halfway down the stairway to cover their backs.

"Whatever this stuff is, there sure is a lot of it" the thief said, shining his light through the large enclosure that was the same size as the house's footprint. The men walked up and down the aisles between the stacked boxes. Against the back wall, under a dust cover lay a rack of rifles, cased handguns and a lot of ammo cans.

Trey popped the latch on a case that held an even dozen handguns. "Here's some stupid Glocks for you pal" the bank robber said noting the one empty spot in the rifle rack and one missing handgun from the case. Several of the ammo cans weren't as dusty as the others, indicating the top cans had been removed. Bored with the empty barn, the children chased each other and the dog while waiting for an all clear from the house. Upon a wave from the Swede, they all rushed inside to explore. The cellmates stood aside to avoid the rush, then left to look over the empty barn. "Lots of room" was Trey's only comment.

The partners started walking along the west wall, heading north. The barrier was the same red brick as in the front of the estate. Trey wondered if the construction would change once it was out of sight of the house. The ground was a slight slope that looked as if it was mowed weekly at one point. Nut bearing trees sprung from the overgrown lawn. The incline increased as the distance from the barn also increased, however the trees were still present as was the once mowed lawn. Went the incline reached a point where using a tractor wasn't practical, the mature woodland and ground cover began.

The convicts followed an unused tractor trail through the oaks, maples, wild cherry and occasional spruce or walnut tree. The thief was already jumpy from the alarmed squirrels scurrying through the leaves, before a grouse exploded from a grapevine tangle with a noise and motion that would startle even veteran outdoorsmen. Joker jumped back, trying to swing his rifle on target, fell backwards over a tree limb lying on the old trail. Trey ducked to avoid the rifle swinging past his head. "What the hell was that" the thief shouted?
"Just a Grouse" Trey answered, amused at his friend trying to untangle his feet.

"I don't like this, we can't see nothing".

"Well, nothing can't see us either. Besides, when was the last time we saw a goon just standing in the woods away from buildings and stuff"?

"When you hurt your leg" Joker argued.

"That doesn't count, they were already chasing us".

The section of wall had a less weathered appearance, like it was newer that the rest, however at least ten years old from the condition of the trail. A couple hundred yards further along, the brick was replaced by a fence that changed direction. The men left the trail to follow the fence downhill at an angle to the northwest. They crossed a small run at the bottom of the hill that had a trickle of water winding its way past the rocks.

The fence, that was far from new, was still sturdy and serviceable. At the top of the slope they had climbed, Trey found the corner of the fence where it turned east and he called for a break. "This is a great place to put some people on. Too bad the Swede will never leave his farm" the ex-soldier said.
"Maybe Derby and Archie would be interested".

"That Erie group at the cattle ranch"?

"I don't think there's enough pasture for that many cows".

"The Rules farm is still empty too".

"It probably still smells like bleach" the bank robber replied. "Tough to get wives to go there".

"Most of them aren't ready to leave the walls yet, you know that".

Trey shrugged, then picked up his rifle. Acknowledging that the break was over, Joker grabbed his gear. The men reached the second back corner, seeing that the fence was in pretty bad shape. There weren't any breaks, however the metal had that weather worn, look betraying its age and fragility. The only distraction before coming within sight of the house, was a small group of deer. Having become used to the lack of humanity, the men didn't alarm them at first. The pair approached quite close, before the animals moved off leisurely.

The Swede looked relieved when the other convicts showed up. Peach put all three men to work removing boxes of supplies destined for the farm. None of the children wanted to leave after their outing, they all pouted, but didn't dare defy her. The partners were tempted to stay themselves, although in the end decided to make several days appearance at the homestead.

Rose was free at last, her head literally in the clouds. She had been mentally plotting a course, even before the cast on her leg had been removed. She didn't want to go as far east as Philadelphia before going south. Philly, NY City and New Jersey must be chock full of the dead. The idea was to go south at an angle once she was past Pittsburgh, passing south of Baltimore and Washington, but staying north of Richmond.

The Allegheny mountains were close to 5,000 feet high in places, which shouldn't be a problem with a service ceiling of over 13,000 feet. With the spare fuel, she'd have to trust to luck at finding a place to refuel if needed. However, even over estimating the distance, she should have more than enough for the 450 miles. 56 gallons a would get her there. Cruising at 140 miles per hour the trip should only take a little over three hours. The young pilot had been so close to her destination when she crash landed.

It wasn't long before Rose could see in the distance where Pittsburgh had once been, off to starboard. The smoke was gone, however the blackened area in the river valley stood out. The Cessna crossed into Maryland near Cumberland, across the arm of West Virginia, emerging into Virginia near Front Royal. With the last of the mountains behind Rose now, she began a gradual descent.

The pilot leveled off at 1,000 feet, wondering again about the dead. They didn't seem attracted to the distant noise above them. At 100 feet, they would doggedly set off after the aircraft that they had no chance of catching. Their rotting, lizard brains just didn't see the connection. She passed Culpepper, watching for Fredericksburg, where she would swing back north for Maryland's eastern shore. In her mind, she would buzz the house and her father would come outside, hand shading his eyes as he looked up. Then he would pick her up at the old airfield, in his equally old Ford truck.

The daydream shattered when the F15 blasted past to starboard, so fast that the young pilot had no idea what craft it was. The little single engine wobbled as Rose stared after the intruder instead of taking care of business. it took a second to catch her breath and return to flying straight and level. The second shock was the Beechcraft twin engine that had moved in on her port side while she gawked after the fast mover. Rose cursed, fighting to regain control of the plane once again.

Looking her new guest over, she decided it was a model 50, even though twin engines weren't her thing. It didn't look as big as the few model 18's that had been around. The pilot nudged the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza closer to the little Cessna. When it stayed straight and level, he moved his wingtip toward her. Rose watched the wings creep closer together, then noticed the co-pilot motioning that she should land. She sighed, there was no escaping the twin engine, let alone the jet he had at his command. The co-pilot was pleased to see her return a thumbs up gesture.

John Spirro widened the gap between the planes and moved ahead, leading the way. He was sad that the flight was going to be so short. Flight time was rare these days, even rarer for the jet jockeys. In his heart he had hoped for a chase. When the emergency started, he had been a jet jockey himself. There really wasn't much for those pilots to do these days.

When he had joined his first squadron nobody had to beg for flight time. He had really felt he belonged when he got his promotion to Captain. Lt John Spirro became Captain Jack Sparrow and the pirate nonsense began. He missed those days. Now only a few fighters were kept ready to go. The former pilots were given other tasks, some were even given a rifle.

The Pirate was one of the few that had spent his time to become rated on a twin engine, since he had no private life. Now it paid off, keeping him the air. He chauffeured the big wigs and flew recon, although he still didn't fly as much as he had previously. The airfield hove into view within ten minutes. The Bonanza made a low level pass as the Cessna touched down and was swarmed by security. Spirro sighed, "Probably a week until he would have a chance to get up the air again".

Rose followed the Air Force plane, the heading almost in the direction she wanted anyway. The landing area hadn't existed before the dead came back to life. She knew all the airfields and this one was never there. From a distance the strip and building were surrounded by some type of concentric circles. The view closer was three alternating rings of fence, ditch, fence, ditch, fence, ditch. Before the landing took all her attention, she stared at the bodies inside the first three rings. If she had been familiar with World War One, she would have recognized the western front in France.

Military Humvee's raced on each side of the runway pacing the single engine craft as it touched down. The Cessna rolled to a stop just feet away from a plow truck blocking the runway. Rose followed the orders shouted at her after killing the engine. Hands in the air, she fell flat on her face getting out of the pilot's seat. Two strong young men lifted her up as though she weighed nothing at all. With her hands on the warm hood of a vehicle, her feet were kicked back and apart. Her old revolver was stripped from the shoulder holster before the search began.

The young pilot might have gone along with the program, however the probing hands lingered in really private areas. "I'll kill you fucking perverts" she screamed before her feet were kicked out from under her. A heavy boot in the middle of her back kept Rose pinned to the runway face down. She saw feet approach her position "Military rifle in the plane Sir". A moment's silence was interrupted "Tag her and bag her Sergeant".

The handcuffs were closed a notch too tight and would quickly become uncomfortable. The heavy hood slipped over her head was instantly uncomfortable. The light through the cloth was very faint, although she could breathe perfectly well. Rose started to struggle when claustrophobia struck her. A large hand with an iron grip on her throat helped calm her down. In her head, she began counting seconds when the vehicle she was placed in began to move. They didn't travel very fast, stopping after only three and a quarter minutes.

Rose was lowered from the truck by her arms before the truck moved away. The young woman hadn't realized how much her captors had stunk, until she smelled deodorant on her new pair of guards. Hands lifting her almost off her feet propelled her forward, the toes of her boots just brushing the concrete. She counted the stairs she was dragged up by how many times her feet hit something solid, before having nothing but air under them again. Entering a pool of shade, both darkened the interior of the hood, as well as lowering the temperature of the air surrounding her. The air cooled further, when she was whisked through a doorway that was wide enough for the trio to pass through side by side.

"A real live woman from the wasteland" a male voice said pretending to sound shocked. "In her own plane and armed to the teeth, just flying in out of the blue" the one sided conversation continued. "Put it in number five" the voice ordered in an all business tone of voice. Rose was dragged through a right turn, then a left. Evidently a hallway, from the way the squeak of her boot tips echoed slightly. Her escorts stopped, one releasing her arm to unlock a door. The hood was roughly pulled off her head before she was thrust into the room.

Once the door slammed shut, the pilot blinked several times, then surveyed the space she was in. The room was thirty by forty feet, lit only by a long, narrow window, high up on the back wall. The walls themselves were made of concrete block and painted a puke, greenish yellow. The floor was also concrete, although unpainted. A toilet and a sink with no mirror, sat behind a small screen. The only furniture was a metal framed bed, it's bare mattress supported by a web of thin web of metal strands. Rose slowly circled the room studying it, before sitting on the bed. The mattress sagged badly.

The young woman replayed the day's events in her mind. She decided that her sudden decision to fly off had made no difference. She would have been caught in this net anyway. Eventually her stomach told her that dinnertime came and went. The room slowly darkened as night fell. With little else to occupy herself, Rose began the exercises Trey had demanded. The pushups, sit ups and leg lifts finally made sense, although she hated to admit that the criminals had been right. She curled up on her saggy mattress and slept until dawn, waking chilled with nothing to cover up with.

The sun had been up for a couple hours when a polite knock came at the door. Rose was given her orders in a polite voice. She stood in the center of the room, back to the door, feet spread, arms extended to the side and fingers spread. "OK, turn around dear". The men who were evidently the ones who had placed her in the room stood in the doorway watching her. Rose ignored them staring at the woman pushing a tray into her room instead. She was slightly above average height, but moved with an athletic grace. Several years older than Rose, she wore a uniform with an armband, bearing a red cross.

A small folding table and chair were set up " Have a seat dear, breakfast is served".

Rose's stomach growled at the scent of food in her nostrils. Refusing to eat would serve no purpose, so she took the offered chair. The food was a combination of canned and powdered, with the exception of the bread. The young pilot kept her opinion to herself, trying not to gobble the plate's contents. When the last crumb was gone, she was ordered back to her bunk. The cart was loaded up again, although before it was removed the older woman passed some information to her. "You're to be interviewed later today. For what it's worth, nobody stays here long".

Rose guessed it was late afternoon before a man's voice ordered her to assume the position before her keepers entered the room. Once again shackled, she was hustled down the hall, trying to match her jailers' strides. Taken to another room where a chair was bolted to the floor in front of a desk, her cuffs were secured with a short chain, also bolted to the floor. The room was almost a duplicate of her own, and just as bare. She hadn't wait long when the door opened. A man in a gray uniform entered and took a seat at the desk. He opened a folder and studied it while she studied him. He was average height with a clean shave and military hair cut. His shoulders slightly wider than most men, however her eyes kept being drawn to the three ragged, parallel scars. Along the jaw line, but under the ears, they extended the entire right side of his face. It appeared as if somebody or something tried to tear his face off.

"So, Rose, we haven't had many civilian fliers since the emergency began. Tell me about yourself back to when this mess started".

She told him about college out west up though crashing her plane before he stopped her. His interest had increased at the mention of her treatment at the prison. "Where was the prison? Where was the plane crash? What were the names of the people involved with helping her? Where there soldiers there"?
The gray clad questioner wrote down each of her answers in detail. Encouraged to continue, she related her recovery and everything else up to her forced landing. She was asked for more details about the flights she made for the military.

The interview ended on a note of apology from the soldier. "We don't usually hold anyone for more than a day, but you were involved with something of interest to us. Your accommodations will be much better than the holding cell". Rose was walked back to a different room without handcuffs this time. The door was still locked behind her, however her new digs were more like an expensive hotel room.
The was a large screen television , an extensive DVD and CD library, a real bed and a really nice bathroom.

After searching for cameras and finding none, she had a long soak in the tub, then washed her clothing in it as well. She found new clothes from what was hanging in the closet. The meals were served on a permanent table in the room, without being observed, although the food was no different. The daily interviews continued, with her providing much more detail information. Rose traced each of her flights on a series of maps from the thick folders brought by the scarred man. She also located her destination on one of the local maps. For the first time she believed that she would be released eventually.

Rose was careful to ask only the most general questions about local events, most of which the gray man was willing to answer. At the end of the fourth interview she was told that she would be released the next morning. Unfortunately she would not have her aircraft returned. A patrol was going near where she wanted to go and she could accompany them if she wished. The area hadn't seen any activity lately. Or, she could be found work inside the wire. But once she left, there was no coming back. The scarred, gray man nodded, when she insisted on continuing her quest.

Rose never saw the kind man in gray man, whose name she didn't know, again. At dawn the next morning, a gruff soldier with four subdued stripes on his sleeve, banged on her door. "Get your shit, you won't be coming back" he ordered. "I don't have any shit, you guys took it all" she snarled back.
The staff sergeant grinned in approval at her spirit. The few civilians he had encountered were mostly empty shells of human beings.

Breakfast was at a table full of rough people in different uniforms in the chow hall. Patrols were nothing new to this group and their humor showed it. A Hispanic man, almost as wide as he was tall, looked down the table with a smile showing a gold tooth. "I give her two hours, she won't be flying over everything now". The rest of the squad's estimates of her time left on this earth varied from two days to two weeks. "I walked across the state of Missouri by myself, I think I'll be just fine" Rose replied with a smile. Given a place in one of the vehicles, her gear and weapons were returned to her. "Don't load those things until we drop you off. Nobody wants to be shot by an excitable civilian" the Staff Sergeant warned.

They drove though all three rings of fence, following the road that wove back and forth, so the gates weren't all in a line. Between each fence were a series of ditches and obstacles that could be used by a retreating party to block the road if there was a breach. A man in a tower at the outside ring called all clear before they were permitted to leave. The men manning the gate on the outside ring were jumpy and slammed the gate shut almost hitting the rear bumper on the last truck through. The smell of the dead bodies was almost a taste, rather than a smell. None of those rotting in the sun were even close to the fence.

The patrol drove mostly side roads, finding observation points with a view of bridges and major roads. Her excitement built as she recognized more and more landmarks. The trucks stopped at the dead end road, she grew up on. Her first act was to load her weapons as soon as her feet were on the ground. A thump behind her made Rose jump. "We'll say we lost it" said the man with the gold tooth as the trucks pulled away. It was a carton of military MRE's.

Rose stashed the food out of sight, then walked quickly down the road. The young woman couldn't help herself and broke into a jog. Once the house came into view she could barely restrain herself from calling out. The front porch was covered with windblown grit and debris, but they never used the front door anyway. Rose raced around the house to the back porch, only to find it in the same condition, except for the open door. Her heart sank.

The young woman climbed the stairs to call loudly into the dark opening "Daddy". Desperate, she ran from room to room, finding no sign of recent habitation. Back on the porch, she hoped he was in the garden, that was when she saw the grave, partially hidden by the tall grass. The tears blurred out the date when she saw that her father had died before she left Nebraska. Rose's tears continued most of the night, until just before dawn when she slept.

Days were spent in the house, reliving all the happy memories they had shared. Finally she had no tears left to shed. Rose was sure her Aunt June and Uncle Art had buried her father. They weren't really relatives, but they were family. Rose took a week to work up the courage to visit the only other house on the dead end road. She buried the their partially devoured bodies in front of the burned out pile of charcoal that used to be their house.

The canned goods and jars of food from last year's garden lasted two weeks. Rose took the things she thought would be useful from the camping gear in the basement. The MRE's were tied on the top of the pack and she set off down the road. Maybe Uncle Art's sailboat was still tied up in the marina. She'd sail south until she passed Richmond, then maybe she'd find another plane. There was always Pennsylvania.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 2:55 pm 
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YAY!!!!!! SO GLAD FOR MOAR!!!! Sounds like the U.S.M.C (the MOAR Corpses) win again.

Poor Rose, sad to see she lost her plane, her dad, and sounds like family friends. But that's what she gets for leaving our protagonists. Maybe we'll get intermittent updates of Rose? Hear how her travels go?

Thanks again for the update, one of my favorite stories here!

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:47 pm 
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Thanks!

Appreciate the continuation of this storyline...

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:56 pm 
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Thanks for the new installment. This is an excellent story. Do hope it continues.

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Just got caught up again! PLEASE KEEP GOING :clap:


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
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It has been mentioned to me that the last post would be a good ending. I was surprised. What do you all think?

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Captain Trask stood at the sink looking in the mirror, to begin the painstaking task of a morning shave. Getting in between the scars without cutting his face was the goal. Every morning, the thought that not even a beard wouldn't hide the ropes of shiny scar tissue, went through his mind. He was sure the General would turn a blind eye if it was an improvement. He had to admit that luck had been on his side. Scratches from the dead had a fifty-fifty chance of being fatal. Those that died, had about the same odds of just dying, or coming back as a zombie. The group's medic had plucked a loose fingernail from one of the wounds, before flushing the ravaged area with alcohol. The soldier got those scars saving his General's life. He wasn't a desk guy and had requested a return to the infantry several times. The old man's reply was always the same. "Sorry Bill, you're too important here".

Finished with putting on the medium gray uniform, he looked in the full length mirror. The bare uniform was just wrong, no rank, no name tape, no indicator of what he did for a living. There the scars helped. Nobody that looked like he did spent all his time behind a desk. Plus, the side of his mouth was pulled down in a permanent frown of disapproval. His job was to make people nervous. He scooped up his rifle and vest before exiting the room. The Captain never even went to the latrine unarmed.

Trask showed his I.D. at the compound gate. No one just strolled into Combined Intelligence, where the spooks lived. From his office on the first floor, he had a clear line of sight to the main door. The morning was spent writing his report of the interview. The remainder of the day was spent gathering confirmable information. He managed to secure twenty minutes of the General's valuable time the next morning. He continued to go over the information for his presentation long after the building had emptied. He nodded to the junior Lieutenant who would babysit the building, hoping nothing would occur on his shift.

Bright and early, Trask arrived for his appointment just after the General's personal assistant arrived. She was a cute redhead who filled out her uniform nicely. Like many people, she never looked directly at him when speaking. Others, couldn't seem to look away from the wrecked visage. Sergeant Urizzi had shivers down her spine when looking at the Captain. He sat in a chair, rifle between his knees, zoning out. The General, not a morning person, passed through the room not speaking. The old man would have his morning brew before taking care of business. At last, the gate keeper let the officer pass into the inner sanctum.

The General rose to greet his guest. It wasn't just an act, he was genuinely grateful to the young officer, The commander had grown to like his rescuer, although he also tried to keep him from further harm. "What have you got for me Bill"?

"I have some information about the missing Major Barton, his mission and his troops out in Pennsylvania".

"Excellent. I've wondered about that".

"The Major is dead. His mission was successful. Most of the soldiers he took along have survived".

"The source?"

"A young woman who was flying a small plane that we snagged".

The senior officer remained silent, letting the junior offer provide all the details obtained from the interview. "It should be easy enough to confirm if the test was successful" he finished his report.

"So those soldiers have no idea how to get back" the General asked?

"Knowing the Major, I would guess they have no idea" The Captain agreed.

"I'll kick this upstairs. I'm sure the test results will be of interest. Most likely they'll order a flyover. The Major is dead then"?

"He tried to kill the prisoners that got them into town, in front of witnesses. In a flamboyant manner, knowing the Major. This McFaren and his cohort are trouble shooters for the survivors in the area. He is the one that borrowed one of the laser trucks".

"And the other units are still just sitting there"?

"No way of knowing, sir".

"Thank you Bill" the man with the stars ended the meeting. The following three days were spent with busy work. Scanning reports, filing items that needed filed and clearing his desk. Bored, the Captain would drift down to the building armory to bullshit with the men in the cage. They didn't have a lot to do either. The enlisted men were leery of the scarred officer at first, until they realized he wasn't the typical grey jacket that filled the building.

Summoned to the General's office, Trask waited ten minutes so he wouldn't seem too eager. "I guess I'm fighting a losing battle here" the older man sighed. "You're determined to get back into this meat grinder. Well, we lost a major and mislaid a lieutenant , so I'll send a captain. Trask couldn't help but smile as they went over all the details. His orders were waiting for him when he left the office. He personally dropped the paperwork off at the motor pool, supply and personnel. The world was falling apart, but the military still ran on paperwork.

The force assigned to Trask was a platoon of mixed service members. That was the rule now more than the exception. The makeup of the platoon was almost down to fifty percent Army. There were fewer Marines around as than there used to be as well. The Navy and Air Force had run out of tasks for most of their personnel, so they were given rifles. With little training, the losses were high the first few tours on the wall or patrols. What was left were those that learned quickly or were just plain lucky. His best troops had always been those that grew up either on the mean streets of the larger cities, or those from the country that grew up in the outdoors. The platoon had just come off a tour on the wall and a stint on patrol. The Captain hoped that they enjoyed their day off, it would be their last for a while.

Lieutenant Alvarez and Staff Sergeant Merced had no idea why they were ordered to appear at the CI headquarters. To say they were worried was putting it mildly. "No good will come of this" the black, enlisted man with the shaved head growled to his platoon leader.

"Probably not, so let's see what they want" the laid back officer replied as they approached the compound gate. The delay, while approval for entry was made by telephone, was taken in stride by the calm and collected Lieutenant. The pair were shown into Trask's office. They checked out his scars and he studied the unflappable officer and the angry Sergeant. Trask slid both a copy of their orders, as well as reports on the situation to date, across the desk to each man. He stood looking out the window for the time it took the others to become familiar with their upcoming assignment. The Captain also provided a list of equipment to be drawn from government stores. "Questions or suggestions" Trask asked?

"No sir"!

"I'll see you at the airfield in three days then". Trask watched his men leave, thinking that he could have done worse. He slowly and carefully went over everything one last time, looking for flaws and missing pieces. Satisfied, he looked around the office briefly before closing the door. The remainder of the day he spent in his quarters, going over maps of the destination. The surrounding state maps first, noting the population centers and major roads to be avoided. Then the Pennsylvania map, looking for ways to return if necessary. From the interview, the Captain knew most of the traveling had been to the north. Once south and once west, but repeatedly to the north. No interest was shown in anything to the east, the more mountainous area.

The one local map he'd been able to get his hands on, was the most important. Again, information from the interview, allowed him a general idea where the farms were located. He'd go over the information each night until he could recall the detail easily. Pulling out maps all the time would give the men the impression he wasn't sure what he was doing. The rest of the time available was spent going through the tombs in the basement of CI for more information or being denied updated satellite photographs. Evidently, changing the trajectory was out of the question. Maybe there wasn't anyone left that knew how to do that. Although he did spare the time to show his scars at the armory and motor pool, just to insure complete cooperation.

Alvarez and Merced were amazed at both the armory and the motor pool. Almost no waiting was involved in drawing their equipment. The weapons and ammunition were stacked and waiting. Lieutenant Alvarez signed off on the forms, still shaking his head, never having seen belt fed weapons so clean. Staff Sergeant Merced was stunned to see the vehicles he was being offered. He had expected to be offered junk, and after a lot of argument settling for slightly better junk. The items signed for weren't new by any stretch of the imagination, but mechanically sound. The body repairs were neatly done and freshly painted. The two men exchanged experiences, agreeing that the man from CI had some pull.

Expecting to spend time getting all the gear in shape, the company showed up at the hangar with nothing to do. They had no way of knowing that Illion and his men had left from the same structure earlier in the year. Trask was there ahead of the company. The Captain had a line of bent and dented pop cans lined up, throwing rocks at them. He heard the company pull up behind him, but continued his activity. Alvarez approached and cleared his throat, though the other officer gave no sign that he had heard. He was debating what to do next when the captain spoke "Have the company fall in, please".

Trask continued his throws, preceded by a big league windup and follow through to the sound of shuffling feet and rustling equipment. Feeling the company's eyes upon him, he managed to kill the last five cans with five throws. Turning, he gave the assembled men a couple minutes to take a look at him. "Open ranks" the man in gray suggested to the company commander.

The order was given, the front ranks took the prescribed steps forward, the third rank stood fast and the rear rank moved backwards. Trask, followed by the Sergeant and Lieutenant, drifted up and down the rows of soldiers. The purpose wasn't an inspection, but rather to give each man a good look at his face. Although he gave them a once over as well. The navy men were wearing a mix of blue camouflage and whatever else that had been available. The zoomies had their own unmistakable uniforms. The new men didn't even have a tape showing their branch of service. Their information had been written with a black marker. All their boots were serviceable and the rifles were clean.

Back in front of the group, the man in gray suggested "Have them fall out and form a circle". Alvarez nodded to the black man, who got the group herded into a circle surrounding the officers. "You won't up on a wall or hunting waterlogged creatures who managed to climb out of the river" The Captain began. "If it comes, it'll be a stand up fight. The average heights are 5' 9" for a male, 5' 4" for a female. The big people died being big people, the small people were better at ducking, dodging and hiding. The dead you run into aren't going to be giants". There was nervous laughter from the ring of soldiers. "At least that's what the reports say".

"Do not shoot unless ordered. Do not use your bayonet on your rifle to stick the dead. The result will be black goop in your rifle barrel. I'd recommend a pipe, tire iron or something that won't break. Your target is right here" the Captain pointed to his temple "and here" he placed a hand on the nape of his neck. "The top of the head is harder to fracture". Trask motioned a man from the front rank to move next to him. "You're a Zombie, put your arms out" which resulted in more laughter from the group. "Step to the side, then make your swing. They haven't any balance, you can trip them or a shove will topple them. I don't recommend it, but if you grab a sleeve and tug, they fall on their face. If you knock down the ones in front, the rest will trip over them. Hit and move, don't let them get behind you" he finished up.

Merced moved the men into the hangar, grounding their gear by squads. In the office, the three men in charge went over the mission. They poured over the maps, discussed distances, expected opposition and time allowed. When all the questions were answered, that could be answered, conversation dried up. The ranking officer took a desk in the corner , put his feet up and continued looking at the maps. Alvarez and Merced drifted outside to talk with the squad leaders, so they could brief the troops. Alone, Trask closed his eyes and tilted his head back. From here on out, he'd have to take things as they came.

The afternoon was spent with the soldiers doing common task training. The parts concerning zombies weren't in any of the field manuals. Later, Merced took a gaggle of soldiers down the flight line for evening chow. When they'd returned, Alvarez took the other half for their meals. Task strolled along behind the group. Merced had paved the way with the mess sergeant , eliminating any hassles. Trask seated himself across the table from Alvarez, neither man speaking while they ate.

The light seemed to hang on, even once the sun was out of sight, except inside the hangar. Merced and Alvarez were unrolling their sleeping bags, expecting Trask to remain in his corner. He surprised them again, electing a spot in the hangar a short distance from the troops. Merced looked at his platoon leader and shook his head without speaking. The Captain rolled his bag open, hearing the conversations die down. Like crickets, the sound of whispers soon resumed. In one corner, voices started to rise, but he still couldn't make out the words.

"You guys need to grow some balls, I'll do it" floated out of the darkness. An unidentifiable figure approached, stopping a respectable distance away. "Excuse me Sir".

"Step a little closer soldier".

The man moved forward dropping to one knee. "The men were wondering about your scars Sir" he blurted out in a soft voice.

The officer's amusement was evident in his voice. "Before this mess started, I was stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. While snorkeling one fine Sunday morning, I got into a tussle with an eleven foot Tiger shark which was attacking a cute surfer girl. I went to the hospital and the fish went to the taxidermist. The view of the islands from a medical chopper is pretty cool".

The enlisted man chuckled "That's weak Sir".

"Not at all. It has an exotic locale and the classic battle of man against nature and a damsel in distress. However, you have permission to come up with something better Sergeant".

"Thank you Sir" the shadow said, taking his leave. Before he rejoined his group he paused "How did he know I was a Sergeant"?

Trask listened, anticipating the groans following the story and wasn't disappointed. He was sure the junior NCO was confirming that the story was bullshit, then providing a better story about what he had heard really happened. The remainder of the night was filled with moans from the sleepers and occasional cries as a soldier sat up being chased by a nightmare from his dream. Seeing the posted guards and his sleeping team mates quickly calmed them down. Rarely a night would go by without the officer feeling the fingernails of a dead hand ripping the skin from his face.

Merced had half the platoon on their way to breakfast before it was fully light out the next morning. Trask followed this group today, listening to the troops trying to recall the words to some surfing songs. The platoon Sergeant was annoyed that he had no idea what was going on, but was sure it was the gray clad man's fault. The Captain stayed for a third cup of coffee, going back with Alvarez's group, who was equally puzzled about the song topic. The vehicles were checked again, then the waiting began. Several card games started up and a lot of the men dozed off on the hard concrete, leaning against their packs.

An Airman in a blue sedan showed up just before lunch. He politely inquired why the hangar's inhabitants weren't in the assembly area. The officers denied being informed to move to another area. "Sirs, the transport is waiting up the flight line. Just head that way and you'll see my car" he pointed over his shoulder with a thumb. Merced got the troops mounted up and the group moved out in the direction the blue sedan had headed. A little ways past where they had breakfasted, the sedan was parked in the shade of a huge aircraft wing.

Airmen moved all the vehicles into the bay of the craft. They clearly didn't trust the Army not to damage their precious plane. Cargo with wheels was secured to the deck and cargo with legs was secured in the seats. The ground crew departed just ahead of the closing ramp. When the engines spun into life, the passengers all reached for the headsets next to each seat. Talking wouldn't be impossible, although it would take a major effort. The military plane would never be confused with a civilian airliner. It was noisier and shook more taxiing to a takeoff position. The men inside knew the crews didn't fly very often these days and hoped they remembered enough to get into the air.

Before it seemed like they were traveling near fast enough to get airborne, the deck took on a serious tilt. The plane still shook, but in a totally different manner. Slowly, by degrees, the deck leveled out again. The platoon visibly relaxed, giving each other a thumbs up. Trask gave the aircrew ten minutes to accomplish what they needed to do, then unbuckled his restraint and stood up. By the time he neared the cockpit door, all eyes were on him, including that of a crew chief barring the way.

The Captain had a letter from the General, although he was pretty certain he wouldn't need it. He considered it his Richelieu letter. The 17th century French Cardinal allegedly gave warrants to his assassins stating that "The barer had done what was done for the good of France". The platoon watched the confrontation with interest. The man in gray pointed to the door behind its guardian. The crewman shook his head pointing back to the seating area. The Captain leaned forward and the crewman reacted by backing up as though the scars were a contagious disease. After all, the man had been in close contact with the dead.

The troops thought this was funny since there was never any love lost between the Air Force and the Army. The members who weren't Army had begun to consider themselves so. When the Captain passed through the hatch to the cockpit Merced sighed "That man uses his face just like a beautiful woman to get what he wants" he said to himself.

The pilot and co-pilot were startled when the hatch was opened. That shouldn't happen unless it was an emergency. Both men cringed seeing the gray intelligence uniform that always meant problems. "What can we do for you Captain" the co-pilot asked?

"I have a message I'd like you to transmit every ten minutes or so. I don't expect an answer, so that should simplify things".

The co-pilot snatched the paper from the extended hand, ignoring the wrecked smile of gratitude. "Will do" he acknowledged suppressing a shudder.

Trask nodded at the smiling men on his way back to his seat. He spent the remainder of the flight studying the maps he knew by heart and reviewing his landing "to do" list. The rest of the passengers were happy to doze off, since spending a night on concrete. He checked his watch every the plane banked as though changing course. Seeing it was way too early to have arrived, he went back to his lists. Later, a crewman notified Alvarez, one of the few who were still awake, that they would be landing shortly.

Merced started making his rounds, kicking booted feet. The transport's starboard wing dropped slightly and stayed in that position. The craft continued to circle for almost a half hour, before leveling and beginning its descent. The short distance it taxied after later took everyone by surprise. The men stood and stretched, trying to stay out of the way of the crew feeing the captive vehicles. Alvarez was on the ground, directing the troops chased out by Merced to an assembly area, where they formed a perimeter.

Several platoons were sweeping the airport shooting the dead as they came into range. An Engineer company, followed by a rifle company raced across the runways on an unknown mission. Another company of Engineers was setting up a fence fifty feet from where the original had collapsed. The smell of the pile of dead had many soldiers pause in their work to vomit. The fence crew was watched over by two companies of riflemen, although no mobile dead had approached the opening. At the same time, mechanics climbed over the trucks attached to flatbed trailers containing an unidentifiable cargo.
Aircraft mechanics we checking out several large transports that hadn't been part of the flight that had just landed.

The men on the airport side of the perimeter had plenty to look at. Those on the fence side saw only fields, woods and parts of a dead city. Once they arrived, the vehicle crews were set to seeing if there was any damage, leaving one man in each crew on watch. Trask made his appearance about the time the shooting started at the newly erected fence. Alvarez issued instructions to move the company to a back gate near some of the hangars. "Now" the company commander asked when they were in position?

"Now we wait" was the brief reply.

With the noise from all the activity, the vehicles' approach from outside the fence wasn't heard. A trooper called out a sighting, giving Trask time to walk to the gate. A battered dump truck, smeared with fluids from collisions with the dead, followed by an equally batter SUV slid to a stop outside the fence. A motley looking bunch emerged from the stinking trucks, led by an older man in a once white lab coat. Only one of the group looked comfortable with the weapons they carried. "It's good to see you Doctor" Trask greeted the new arrivals.

They were interrupted by a Frenchman with his newly learned fractured English "She's about freaking time".

The Doctor and friends were escorted to one the planes already loaded with two of the flatbed trailers. The UI man spoke on the walk to the plane. "No, he was very helpful" the older man replied to the Captain's inquiry about Trey. "They helped test one of the units. His friend, the little guy, was very mechanically inclined".

Trask sensed he wasn't being told everything the Doctor had to say, "What else Doctor"?

"They offered to take us to a secure location, with other people there. The unit that was taken was payment . I told them somebody would be coming for us, although I had no idea it would take so long".

"Payment for what" Trask asked?

Engineer and rifle companies had been recalled and lost no time boarding the transports after the final loads were secured. Alvarez's company was a mile from the airport when the big planes began taking off. The mechanics had only been successful with one left behind craft and it was the last to leave the runway. The soldiers of the company suddenly felt very lonely when the roar of the big engines had faded into the distance.

One local surviving group, that was in the flight path had spotted the planes make their landing. They were still arguing about what to do when the planes left again. Another small band that moved from place to place hadn't paused to discuss the issued, piling into whatever would run to make a dash toward the airport. Seven humans wept bitter tears at being close enough to hear the engines during the takeoff. They continued on, however they were thwarted by the dead on each route they tried. The noise had attracted every reanimated human in the city. With heavy hearts, the survivors took round about directions to what passed for home for now.

Alvarez's company had barely missed being spotted by those attempting to be rescued. The soldiers managed to reach the interstate with little trouble, but began running into larger numbers of the dead. Trask, in the lead truck, headed the convoy onto a side road when only a few dead were in sight. They hadn't traveled west for long before they came across a county road building, with a fenced in lot. The trucks pulled through the closed, but unlocked gate when the Captain opened it. Alvarez had the vehicles circled and Merced picked men to check the clearly empty garage.

One glance was all that was needed to see no goons were there. There wasn't any office, only a beat up desk and chair in a back corner. A few empty storage shelves lined the rear wall, otherwise the place was empty. Merced noticed a ladder attached to a wall, even the same color of dirty paint in the rest of the building. "Delcosta, get up that up that ladder to see if the hatch at the top will open" the Sergeant ordered.

The young soldier slung his carbine over his head and shoulder, looking up the metal rungs. He made a face as he started up the ladder "You should learn somebody else's name besides mine Sarge" he mumbled.

"I heard that Delcosta. You think I don't like you because you're an Air Force puke. That isn't true at all. I like the Air Force, I really do. Any time there's a war, they're nice enough to give the Army a ride. The problem isn't that you're an Air Force puke. The problem is that you are a useless soldier and I'm tasked with turning you into a real soldier".

"Thank you Sergeant " the man working his way up the ladder whispered. At the top of the ladder, he reached above his head, feeling around the square hatch. He located the hinges and figured that a latch would be on the opposite side. It seemed to be a lift and slide affair from what he could feel in the darkened alcove. The lever refused to give although he could barely get a grip on it. Fishing through his pocket, the Airman located his pocket knife. The blade clicked open with a flick of the thumb. Force from behind popped the lever up. The hinges were stiff and creaked as the lid slid up and back.

Freddy Delcosta took a quick look at the empty, tar and chip covered roof, before climbing out in the open. He walked along all four sides, looking down at the troops, the fence and the area outside the enclosure. Even before the emergency, he'd always felt safer up higher, than on the ground, with a corresponding feeling of vulnerability upon returning to earth. "No dead will get up here" he thought out loud. The sound of boots on the metal rungs made him turn toward the roof access expecting Merced, bringing another ass chewing with him.. "After all, he hadn't been told to come out on the roof, only open the hatch. Personal initiative wasn't always rewarded".

Delcosta, his mother and sister, were refugees staying at the old Air Force base in upstate New York. His father had flown to Chicago for business, never to be heard from again. His mother had come from money and married money, so living in a military barracks and sharing a room with a stranger was hard on her. His younger sister was sickly, and unfortunately, the military and their dependants were the priority recipients of medical care. Entire days were spent in the waiting room without being seen by a doctor.

Their roommate was a Marine, although he was in his sixties. He had weekly meetings at headquarters attempting to get back in uniform, until in order to placate the old warrior, he was made barracks chief and in charge of security for building 1008. Gunny Marston was the one who suggested that Ted volunteer. His family would rate medical treatment, such as it was, and a spot in one of the duplexes in military housing. Ted agonized for three days, before signing the papers and breaking the news to his mother after the fact. Her histrionics about being left alone were worse than he expected. She calmed down once she had actual rooms of her own. The big time lawyer, with connections, sitting at the curb after being evicted, received no sympathy.

Basic training was to last an entire two weeks. Every day they marched to the end of the block, then ran a mile and a half. At the end of the first week, the volunteers were informed they were no longer property of the Air force, they were soldiers now. The training changed significantly. The run was two miles and they were issued rifles. Another week was added for the accelerated Army training. His last night was spent with his family, before climbing aboard an empty supply flight to an unknown destination. Although, to Sergeant Merced, he would always be an Air Force puke.

Instead of Merced, the head that emerged wore a gray cap and had a ravaged face. The Captain was followed by the lieutenant and then Merced. He stayed at the far corner of the roof , and after a glance, he was ignored by the group. "Shouldn't we be alone" Alvarez asked?

"No" the Captain replied. Your troop will hear some things and pass them on. The men will of course accept the scuttlebutt as gospel, and be thrilled to be in on the big secret. It's better for morale if things go south".

Delcosta heard the mention of a prison, convicts, lost soldiers, a missing piece of equipment and a secret experiment, although not many of the details. At first it sounded like a James Bond movie, however as the conversation continued it was more like Lord of the Rings. Shortly after the command group left, it occurred to him that he was supposed to hear what he did. Devious was the word he arrived at to describe the man in gray.

Hours later, just before dark, his relief arrived. The sound of boots on the ladder rungs was followed by cursing, then a rifle dropping onto the roof. Eriksson's blonde head popped through the hatch bitching about the lack of a man sized passage to the roof. The large man, known as the Swede, had to get one shoulder through the opening, then squeeze to get the other out. He was followed by Number Three, so called because several troopers were named Smith. Neither man was in the guard's squad.

Delcosta barely caught the tossed MRE. He sat on the low wall surrounding the roof, slicing open the package. "You can leave now" Number Three said slowly to the new guy, as though he was an idiot.

"Naw, I like it up here". It's quiet".

"Sure, it's great up here" the Swede butted in. "Until something happens and they run off without us". Number Three nodded sagely pointing at the big man.

By the time the diner finished eating, washing the food down with several swigs of tepid water from his canteen, night had fallen. His parting words to the city boys made them look around quickly. "Watch out for the owls, they've been buzzing me. They'll rip your face off man".

The soldiers didn't sleep well. Most were more used to the sound of gunfire, than the sounds of a night in the country. Even those familiar with the noises, hadn't heard them in quite some time. The guards took turns stretching out on the gravel roof when no relief showed up. The only movement they saw, were occasional soldiers relieving themselves by the rusty barrier fence. Some of the sleepers revisited bad experiences in their dreams. There were yells, loud voices or cries from some of the men to keep the guard alert.

Since they were outside the wire, Alvarez had insisted on "stand to" every morning, just before sunrise. Every man had some type of cover, with their rifle pointed at their sector of the perimeter. Then chow was followed by vehicle maintenance, before packing up all the gear. The order for the road march remained the same as the day before. Merced was the last man out of the compound, he latched the gate, so nothing without a functioning brain would get in.

The convoy stayed on the two lane roads, after the experience the day before. He had no place else to be, however Alvarez was becoming annoyed with Trask. Every time there were bodies within sight of the road he called for a halt. The earlier stops involved moving the remains with a stick, later a quick look was all he required. The larger piles were mostly reanimates, with bullets holes in the skull or shattered heads. The singles or smaller groups, evidently were those pulled down by the dead.

Sooner or later the convoy had to get to the other side of the four lane. The first attempt was impossible due to the number of dead reported by the scouts. The second time, the scouts were gone long enough to worry Alvarez and piss off Merced. Finally, a runner returned reporting a gap in the traffic. "Haul ass, we have break".

The convoy put the pedal to the metal, slowing only enough to recover the scouts. A large number of bodies littered the area near the underpass, although the road had enough clear space for the vehicles to squeeze through. More homes and farms were near the road west of the interstate. Alvarez was amazed, but thankful that they hadn't had contact with the dead yet. He had expected conditions to be much worse. The lieutenant was sure that current events were subject to change at any time. This was just too good to be true.

Trask called a halt just outside a little burg, to let everyone stretch their legs and give the scouts time to go forward. The command group gathered around one of the Captain's maps, looking where he placed a finger. "We're here". His finger traced a connecting road on the other side of the town.
"We're going here. We'll infiltrate the area and observe before we take any action. Pick some good men and let them know".

Alvarez and Merced put their heads together, making selections for the job. The officer questioned a few of Merced's choices, but he was adamant. He gave in, his sergeant always knew what he was doing. The scouts returned to report "No zeros on the streets, but we could see them in some of the windows".
Merced left for twenty minutes, returning from south of town having found a place to hold up. The unit mounted up, following the Sergeant a short distance.

The convoy stopped on the road while the officers checked the bivouac site. A short side road led to a clump of houses among some scattered trees. The back yards were fenced in, which was a plus. The leaders returned to the convoy in time to see the red and white Cessna make a low pass over the vehicles. "Well, there's something you don't see everyday" Trask calmly said to the surprised group sitting in the open.

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Three men and a woman trapped in a building, send help. If you can't send help send two more women. Groucho Marx-Duck Soup

USAF SP 72-77,US Army reserves 84-92


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:21 pm 
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Groucho wrote:
It has been mentioned to me that the last post would be a good ending. I was surprised. What do you all think?


HA! I was just going to go through and post here saying MOAR!!!!!! You beat me however.

I would say it would be a good ending, for book 1 or 2..... but this is a trilogy (you knew that right?). I could see it as an end but there's lots left for our anti-heroes.... Right? Please don't make me beg.

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I like huge dicks, Halfapint, so you are OK in my book.... hahaha
Spazzy wrote:
Tell ya what... If Zombies attack and the world ends I'll hook tandem toddlers to a plow if it means I'll be able to eat...


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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:41 am 
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Ah, a long awaited post!

MOAR, please!

Bob

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People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

Carrot's voyage to Ankh-Morpork

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Trey and Joker watched the rest of their group depart for the farm, before starting to close up the buildings on the estate. The thief hadn't had much to say, so Trey was sure his friend had something on his mind. The cell mates drove down the sloping drive to the road and stopped to close the gate, Joker waited in the cab, while the bank robber moved the barrier back into place. Upon his return, the smaller man turned off the engine and met him by the rear of the truck. "You said there was an airport over there didn't you"?

"Why yes I did" Trey smiled at his friend still pointing to the west. "At least there is on the map, although it isn't in a low population area like the others we've been to".

"Since we're already here, we should at least go take a look". Joker had his jaw set and was ready for an argument on the subject. He was a little disappointed when his friend replied with a grin "Whatever you say Sky King".

"I figure we can sneak over there and if there aren't too many, we can do the Pied Piper thing".

"I can take them for a walk, while you look around" the soldier offered. "It's still a couple hours until dark. But, let's take the truck as close as we can. If we have to run, we can't lead them back in this direction."

Joker slowly cruised west, backing off on the gas the farther they went. On the right side of the road, the wooded land rose gradually at first, then steeply to the same height as the hill behind the estate. On the left side, a stream, at its low summer level, meandered close to the road. On the far side of the waterway, mature maples and oaks, as well as a steep bank, blocked the view. The airfield should be beyond the trees, however they'd just have to cross the creek to find out for sure. Joker pulled off the road in one of those mysterious wide spots, that show up along a border. Trey always wondered why it was there and who used it enough to make rain filled, potholes in the surface.

The men gathered their equipment, softly closing the doors until they clicked. The bank was two long steps down and put them on the edge of the stream. "Somebody crosses here" Trey whispered, pointing out the rocks sticking above the water's surface, in a line to the far bank. Seeing the dried dirt, deposited on the stones from high water during the last rainfall, he added "But not lately". The bank robber balanced with one foot on a wobbly rock, then stepped to the next. The gap in the middle of the stream was wider than the others had been, however Trey made the jump easily.

Joker stood looking at the rocks for a moment, then started across. Trey, standing at the top of the bank, facing the trees, heard the splash. Turning he whispered "You're doing it wrong". His partner had made the short jump, but off balance, had put his foot into water just deep enough to go over the top of his boot. The small man squished the rest of the way to the bank, his wet footwear picking up a clump of clay climbing the bank. "There better be a plane in there" he exclaimed with a disgusted look on his face. First he poured water from his boot, then wrung the water from his sock and finally pried the clay from its sole with a piece of broken branch.

The pair proceeded slowly up through the trees. Joker's boot wasn't audibly squishing, but each time he put his foot down, a small amount of liquid moved. Like anyone else who works or plays outside, it wasn't the first time this had happened to him. "At least it's not cold out" he thought how much worse that would be. The forest floor leveled for a short distance, then turned into another incline. "This is fill from when they leveled the area for the field" the thief said in a low voice. The trees growing on the dumped earth were younger than what they had walked through earlier. The rest was tall weeds, sticker bushes and some fairly large rocks.

The convicts made their way up the man made hill, until they could see the airfield. They had arrived at the north end of the place. Any further north and they would have missed it altogether. Looking south, they saw figures in the distance, although there weren't any goons at this end. "We have a couple hours of daylight. We can go around or just stagger over there" Trey said quietly.

"Let's walk almost straight across, until we're out of sight".

With the decision made, they started away from cover. The men adopted the slow, loose jointed, slightly side to side method of their enemy. The grass alongside the runway was almost tall enough to bail for hay. Insects jumped or flew away as they approached. The pair came out onto the runway, trudging across faded paint lines that needed touched up and slight cracks in the blacktop that needed filled. Joker moved on when Trey stopped to use the binoculars.

Upon reaching the cover of the airport building, the convicts hurried to the back corner. The side they were on being featureless, with no way of access to the inside. The rear of the building faced a steep hillside, with piles of shale at the bottom that had slid down the incline due to the effects of wind and rain. Dead trees from the forest on top, had eroded at the base and fallen onto the bare hillside. A dozen feet of grass and weeds separated the hill's base and the sidewalk next to the wall. The men would have to walk the length of the hangar in order to have a good look at it.

Small windows were placed high on the wall for the sole purpose of letting in light. Both doors they came across were without locks or handles, made to be opened strictly from inside. The criminals were aware their escape options were limited if the dead showed up. The steep hill of loose shale would be a hard climb. Having covered the width with no luck, Joker eased up to the corner for a peek at the side they hadn't seen yet. An eddy of the wind had deposited a variety of trash around that area of the property. The thief picked his way gingerly through the mess. Twice he had to move debris to make a place to step. One heap of paper and plastic shopping bags, concealed a rotting skull with a bullet hole in the forehead.

Standing away from the corner itself, in case a goon was right at the same corner, he eased forward. The access road disappearing through the trees was the first thing he noticed. Each slow step revealed more empty asphalt, until he could see both another blank wall and a pair of goons fifty yards in front of the hangar. Backing up slowly, the thief turned motioning his partner back the way they had come. When they reached their starting point Joker said "It's in the front I guess".

"Yep" Trey replied. "It's almost like they didn't want anything stolen".

"That ain't funny man. There must be something in there to have it locked up like this" Joker said, turning the corner after a quick look. He was peering around the front corner when Trey caught up to him. "Well, they haven't moved".

"Let's split up. Give me a wave when you can get in, then keep your radio on after I get our friends out of here".

The two men staggered in different directions, Joker along the front of the hangar and Trey back out towards the west end of the runway. The bank robber slowed his pace and turned onto a taxi way before Joker reached the first doorway. He watched the smaller man make his approach, ready to intervene if the dead took an interest in him as anything other than a fellow traveler. Joker paused by the first door. The large sliding door wasn't made to be opened from the outside. There wasn't even a handle on the exterior. The door entry door was set in the wall to the right of the aircraft exit. Joker cursed silently to himself. The owners used deadbolt locks as well as padlocks and they were top of the line. Cheap padlocks were no problem, however the more expensive ones had a second notch cut in the shackle. He could still open it, but it would take time. Trey was surprised when his friend moved on. If the entry was easy, he'd be inside by now.

The second door was set up exactly the same as the first door. Joker staggered to the third door, waiting until none of the goons were facing him to look at the lock. The deadbolt lock meant he wouldn't be quickly or silently slipping inside. Quick would be far from quiet and silent would be super slow. Joker was sure that one of the goons was looking at him funny, when he looked back from checking the door. The last door was past where the goons were milling about. They'd never tried to fake it up close and personal before. The thief made a stiff legged circle while thinking about how fast he could do both locks. Arriving back at his starting point, the thief decided to go for it.

Trey saw the reanimated humans begin to move toward his friend and decided on his course of action as fast as Joker had. He jogged toward the dead clapping his hands. The sound was sharp and loud, the kind that would make a person jump if they weren't ready for it. The sound being more stimulating than Joker's action, the dead turned toward the noise. "Don't just stand there" the bank robber taunted the ghouls, sauntering toward the access road.

The dead moved after their tantalizing prey that stayed fifty feet in front of them. The road was the only way in or out foe vehicles. Still on airport property, the land on both sides of the blacktop was wooded. Blown leaves and fallen branches littered the shaded roadway. Trey was surprised at the length of the access road that seemed to just keep going. Finally, the group emerged into the open within sight of a large group of homes. Trey squinted, walking west into the setting sun, looking for a way to lose his followers.

The driveway passed between two of a row of homes built in the 60's, merging onto a township road. He could see a newer subdivision farther west, the ideal spot to give his new friends the slip. The convict pulled ahead of the ghouls to give himself a little breathing room before doing his disappearing act. Trey was startled when a voice whispered "Help us"! The house to his left featured a woman in one of the second story windows, waving frantically. Looking back at the dead he spoke loud enough for her to hear. "Get out of sight. I'll come back when I've lost these guys. It might be a little while, so keep your cool". When he glanced over, she was no longer in sight.

"Thanks Joker, old buddy" he murmured to himself. The creek they had parked next to was flowing to his right, so they were still traveling in the correct direction. Trey crossed the road into an overgrown lawn, between another pair of older homes. Past their back yards lay an open field, with a small pond. Beyond that was the neighborhood of newer, larger, fancier houses. The convict suspected they all had four bedrooms, fireplaces, pantries and finished basements. He also suspected that most of the owners had been house poor, buried in debt and living the middle class dream.

Trey drifted toward the pond, however he couldn't get the goons to enter the water. "Maybe if I had a longer lead" he thought out loud. " That could be a useful experiment". The houses he was approaching had fenced in back yards mostly. The strange group adjusted their course to pass through an unfenced yard, across the street and alongside another house. The bank robber opened the gate to the fenced yard, walked to the porch over the stepping stone path and up onto the low rear deck. A stack of 2 by 4's, cut to the same length as the window was wide sat against the wall with a box of framing nails. Three boards had been nailed over one window before the project had been abandoned.
Trey used the hammer with a worn, wood handle to bust a pane of glass in the door frame next to the lock.

Trey reached through the new opening to unlock the door and was embarrassed to find it wasn't locked. "At least Joker isn't here" he thought, knowing he'd never hear the end of it that the knob hadn't been tried first. The leader of the dead parade was entering the yard through the open gate, when the ex-soldier entered the mud room after a quick glance inside. A door in the hallway leading to the kitchen showcased a huge fireplace and heavy wood furniture in the living room. In the kitchen packages of once frozen meat had arrived at the stage of decomposition that made him want to puke. Evidently the owners had decided not to take it with them at the last minute.

Another short hall took him from the kitchen to the front door and another access to the living room. Trey waited by the locked front door until he heard the dead in the laundry room, then noisily unlocked the door. "Are you guys coming or what" he spoke loud enough for the goons to hear him, then shut the door behind himself. The poured concrete porch was inset into the front of the house, so he took a quick look around the corner he had just passed by moments ago. None of the dead were in sight, letting him creep to the fenced yard in time to see the last two ghouls enter the house. He waited a couple minutes before easing up onto the porch and closing the door. Just in case, he reached through the hole he'd make to lock the door.

As Trey stepped off the porch, movement out past the back yard caught his attention. Another group of dead was approaching, probably drawn by the activity getting the first bunch locked up. He looked down at his boots, shaking his head. "It's going to be one of those days". The new herd was still many minutes away from arriving. They had come out of the woods across the back field of the subdivision. The bank robber walked the edge of the field to select another home to stash the new group in. The dead changed direction, aiming at him as he moved. The yard he picked had a rear gate, large enough for anything the size of a riding mower to pass through. This time he tried the door, finding it locked.
Using his Joker approved lock picking set, he selected a wavy piece of metal called a rake and began work on the lock. Over half a dozen tries were required to hit all the pins in the lock, announcing success with a muted pop.

The goons weren't quite at the fence yet, so Trey checked out the house. The building wasn't as large as the first had been and was sparsely furnished with cheap items. Except for the dust, it appeared as though the owner had just stepped out. Back at the open door, he glanced at the sun that was much closer to the horizon. The mob had finally reached the open gate where their eagerness created a logjam. One member squeezed free, releasing the others, some of whom ended up on the ground.
He backed into the house, as the clump of ghouls reached the porch. Another logjam formed in the back door, before breaking much like the first had. This time when he slammed the front door closed,
the dead were pounding on the door a moment later. He took a good look around once he was out in the street. The detour he took, made sure he was out of sight of the new residents in the neighborhood.

The sun was barely below the horizon, although the landscape was still quite bright. Trey approached the home the woman had hailed him from, staying under cover as much as possible. The minutes ticked by while he sat and watched for anything that might indicate a trap. When full dark arrived, the house he was interested in still showed no sign of light or movement. "At least they're that smart" he mumbled. He crossed over to the back entrance, kneeling to one side, tapped three times on the glass of the aluminum storm door. A moment or two later, the curtains moved slightly and he stood up slowly. The sound of the door's locks being manipulated was followed by a low squeak of the interior and then the louder scraping of the exterior door being opened.

His eyes took a few moments to adjust to the room, since it was darker inside than out. He could make out the woman who sought his help. They stood in silence as he imagined she was wondering if she had made a terrible mistake. " My name is Trey. Maybe we should close the door" he suggested.

"You got any food" she asked, closing the door? "My kids haven't eaten today".

"I picked up a few things, just in case" the bank robber began pulling cans from a blue pillow case, filched from the second house. Lastly he sat a can opener on the counter. "Fruit cocktail which everybody seems to have in the cupboard. Some stew, chili and baked beans too, my canteen's full if you need water".

"I'm Cherry. We have a couple bottles of water left. Thanks for the food" she said, wiping some bowls clean with a paper towel. She popped the pull ring on the can of beef stew, spooning it into the bowls. The mother carried the food into the next room, where he heard her whisper. Small voices replied briefly before the spoons were heard clinking against the containers. Cherry returned to the kitchen and almost panicked when she didn't see the stranger.

"Over here" the man's voice said making her spin toward the sound. Trey had made himself comfortable with a seat at the small table off to the side.

She sat down opposite her guest "You don't ask many questions".

He noticed she sat sideways in the chair, so he couldn't pin her by shoving the table. "I didn't ask any questions! My friend and I were checking out a place up the road. I led the goons away, so he could get inside. I ran into another bunch, but they're all locked up for now".

"Won't he wonder where you are"?

"Probably".

"Won't he come looking for you"?

"Not after dark, unless it's an emergency, which this is not".

Cherry ate in silence, scraping the bowl clean. "I have two boys. Their Daddy went looking for food four days ago. He hasn't come back" Cherry said in an angry voice.

"Where was he going"?
"Just around, who knows".

"We can check the houses tomorrow. I don't know this area, except from the map. I hope he isn't a shoot first kind of guy".

"He'd never shoot first" Cherry said like she had firsthand experience.

Trey's radio made a loud click when he turned it on. "Sky King, Sky King" the bank robber said into the mike. Waiting several minutes between attempts, Joker finally answered.

"What do you want" the small man demanded? "Oh, hey it's dark out. Where are you"?

"I ran into a snag. See you in the morning".

"OK, Sky King out!".

Trey spent the night on the living room couch and the family in a bedroom with a chair under the door knob. He was opening cans of fruit cocktail the next morning just after daybreak when the mother and children joined him. The bank robber received shy smiles from the boys in return for his winning smile. "Evidently my friend is occupied, so I'll check the houses. It shouldn't take more than a couple hours".

"This place was unlocked. Do you break the windows or use a crowbar on the doors"?

"We're pretty good at picking locks, it's much quieter".

Trey shouldered his gear and left quietly by the back door. He started with the few homes between where he spent the night and the creek. There weren't any signs of entry, however he did a quick walk-through anyway. His boots made the only tracks in the fine layer of dust on the floors. Some of the locks took longer to open than snooping about the property did. He reversed direction to finish the row on his side of the road. The fourth house was occupied by a goon that bumped into the door while the soldier was working on the lock. The state of decomposition ruled out the ghoul having been the missing man. The cupboards ranged from completely empty to being fairly well stocked. He left some canned goods on one porch for later collection.

At the end of the row, Trey crossed the street to search the next row of homes. Towards the middle of the new row, a rear door was open with gouges from a pry bar evident in the wood and frame. The stench was particularly awful when he entered the door, especially considering that it had been open to the outside. A few items were set by the door, recently the bank robber guessed, due to their dust free condition. The tracks in the dust led to an open door in the hall next to the kitchen. He eased the door closed so it wasn't blocking the hallway. The odor was even stronger at this point. The flashlight beam lit up the sloping ceiling when he reopened the door. He'd found the access to the basement.

Someone had cut away the stairs. The stringers holding the steps had been sawn through just below the floor. The moans of the dead reached him before the flashlight's beam found them. The body they had feasted on lay face down on the concrete just under the door. The description of Cherry's husband and his clothing were of no help. Everything was the color of blood slowly drying in the heat. Hopefully, the victim had died as a result of the fall before the dead got to him. The goons were standing with their arms raised, as if to catch him if he fell. That was when Trey noticed the sizes and dress of the flesh eaters. It looked like a family. Whether they had killed themselves or one had been bitten, the staircase had been removed so they couldn't escape. The man down there hadn't turned on his flashlight before taking a second step. The thought of dealing with the situation with a broken leg in the dark gave him chills. Nobody outside the walls would have heard the five suppressed gunshots.

He finished the row of homes, making only hasty inspections. In fact, Trey finished the entire neighborhood, not only to be thorough, but to put off delivering the bad news. Although the chances of finding another adult male were razor thin. On the way back to Cherry's place, he detoured to pick up the goods that had been left on a porch. Cherry was sitting at the table nursing a cup of cold tea when he knocked on the door. The two quiet children had empty thread spools, found in a junk drawer, rolling them around the living room floor. "I think I found your man". Cherry sobbed at the news, then quickly pulled herself together.

"You can come with us, if you want. Rest up for a while even if you don't want to stay". She nodded her head before gathering their pitifully few belongings and got the boys ready to travel. Trey's offer to help was refused, although by the second stop on the way to the airport it was clear she couldn't manage the youngsters and items rolled up in a bed sheet. He carried the sheet slung over one shoulder and the rifle slung over the other. She carried the youngest and led the other boy by the hand. The bank robber chaffed at the slow pace, thinking "The dead move faster than this".

Joker sat on an upturned bucket leaning back against the hangar wall when he saw his friend and new found companions. They moved so slow that he fought the urge to yell "Hurry up"! Arriving at the door, Trey made the introductions. The small man was miffed at barely getting a nod in return for his greeting. The children ignored him, which was a rare occurrence. Ignoring the family, he told his friend "Man you got to come see this".

"Does it fly"?

"I don't know" Joker replied with a hint of doubt in his voice. Then added with his usual confidence "I put it back together".

Trey dropped his burden, following his friend into the hangar. He followed the excited thief to the only airplane in the hangar. The yellow and white Cessna still needed the engine panels replaced, but otherwise looked to be airworthy. "I didn't want to try starting it until we were ready to leave" the thief explained.

"You put it back together" the ex-soldier stated.

"Well, yeah. I don't know why it was apart, but everything was just sitting there. Probably a rebuild. The fuel was still good, so I filled it up" the short criminal said stroking the aircraft affectionately. "They had fuel in these wheeled tanks. I doubt it's legal and it sure isn't safe. I grounded it before messing with that".

"Let's get those doors open then" the larger man replied.

The huge doors were electrically powered. The lights joker used while working on the engine were solar powered, however the alternate power wasn't meant to open the plane access. A hand crank was located at each of the doors. The crank turned easily, although the metal it was moving was extremely slow. "Screw this, let's try pushing " Trey said, impatient at the speed events were happening at since last night. The men leaned into the door, making slow progress, but still faster than the crank. A half hour later, both doors were open and the panting men walked to the plane. "She isn't much help" Joker whispered.

"It's a sad story" his friend replied.

"They're all sad" the older man said, showing his dislike for Trey's foundlings. "What are you going to do with them"?

"Drop them off at the prison, with the other depressed people".

The convicts lined the plane up so it was a straight shot out the door. Joker sat in the pilot's seat, held up both hands with crossed fingers, then hit the ignition. The motor tried to turn over without success.
The thief fetched the wheeled stairs and took off the engine panel, talking to himself the entire time. He had his head under the engine cowling for three or four minutes, then gave the craft another try. The motor turned for a moment before running roughly. As the sound smoothed out and gained power, the man in the pilot's seat eased the choke closed. Trey grabbed his friend's gear and weapon, stashing them in the passenger seat in the front. Joker was waving his hands and pointing, unsure what he was trying to convey, Trey waved back. He ducked under the wing, dodging the wing strut and landing gear as the airplane began to move.

The party of four watched the Cessna turn right across the asphalt apron, left onto a taxiway and left again onto the runway. The plan sat facing west, into the wind. Trey could hear the pitch of the engine rising and falling at the far end of the runway. The pilot seemed to get the power at a level he was happy with, however it still sat motionless for several minutes. At last, the motor revved and the yellow and white vehicle began to move. The plane picked up speed, approaching the halfway point. The bank robber kept waiting for the wheels to leave the ground. He was sure the pilot had left it too late, the craft was awfully close to the trees at the end of the runway when it went wheels up. Still, it wasn't gaining enough height. Then the nose tilted up, the landing gear barely clearing the tree tops. Trey let out the breath he hadn't realized that he was holding.

The sound died away going westward, then returned, but farther to the north. They watched Joker circle around the airport, gaining height. The bright yellow stood out against the blue sky and was simple to follow. Trey expected his friend to head north to what they considered their airport. Instead, Joker turned south east, flying out of sight. The sound hung in the air, growing fainter by the moment, until it was gone. He continued to stare where the plane had disappeared, but his friend wasn't circling back. Cherry broke the silence, saying "He's some pilot".

"Well, he's new to flying".

"Why didn't we go with him"?

"Our truck is down the hill that way" he motioned with one hand.

Dreading another long, slow motion walk, Trey scooped up the older boy, swinging him to his shoulders and snatching up the bundle of belongings. Cherry started to protest, however the bank robber started across the asphalt. With a cry of dismay, the woman ran after him carrying the younger child. Their pace was more of a stroll, but at least it was no longer a crawl. The convict stood at the bottom of the fill, where the airport transitioned back to woodlands, waiting for Cherry to get to the bottom. Then they made their way to the creek, following the same route the two convicts had used the day before. Cherry insisted on a break before crossing the creek. Trey used the stepping stone passage to carry the bundle up to the truck. Everyone made the crossing dry shod, climbing the bank to the road.

Trey, still didn't want to drive back past the estate, was thinking of circling to the north. He really didn't want his passengers at the farm, even for the night. The drive to the prison should still allow him to pick up Joker before dark. The woman finished putting her boys in the truck and turned to her rescuer. He didn't notice the short barreled revolver in her hand until he heard the click of the hammer being cocked. "Definitely broken" the bank robber thought. "I was going to take you where there are other families. It's been safe from the beginning, or at least as any place is safe these days" he said in a calm, slow voice. "There are even a few stray soldiers there".

Cherry slowly shook her head from side to side. "I know you helped us. But there aren't any safe places now, and no safe people either. So put your guns in the truck bed or I'll shoot you".

Trey shrugged, then unbuckled his gun belt, holding it in his left hand. With his other hand, he slid the rifle off his shoulder by the sling. Holding the weapons out to his sides, he approached the truck with his back to her. One at a time, the illegal arms he'd acquired at great expense, were dropped into the bed.

"Don't turn around and don't say anything. Just start walking".

Trey backed away until she felt safe to jump in the truck and drive away. He watched the truck disappear down the road. With a few choice expletives, he threw his hat on the pavement, jumped up and down on it a few times and then kicked it. The toe of his boot caught the cap just right and he watched it sail into the air with a right hook that put it into the creek. The bank robber stood in the road with his head down for a minute before sighing in resignation. The first mile of the walk back to the state he occupied himself with all the gruesome ways Cherry should die. The second mile he was calmer and debated whether to put her on her knees first or just shoot her in the head where she stood. Eventually he decided to just punch her in the face really hard, although he doubted that they would ever meet again.

"How would he replace the weapons? Sure, they had the beat up rifles from the armory and he could use one of the homemade suppressors, but it wasn't the same as his store bought rig. Handguns threaded for a suppressor were going to drop into his lap, nor were custom holsters. Setting a quick pace, it still took Trey over two hours to reach the estate border wall. The last half mile he left the road aiming straight for the house. He jumped for the top of the wall, got a grip and raised himself up to swing a leg over. Getting off the wall was much easier. At the house, he sat on a swing in the shade under the porch roof until he'd cooled off. Once he thought he heard the Cessna in the distance, however the sound died away. Entry into the house was accomplished the same way Joker had on their very first visit.

Trey headed downstairs, going directly to the firearms. The rifles were top of the line civilian semi autos, a version of the military rifle. The weapon was clean, however it did need to be lubricated. He made face handling one of the Glocks taken at random. "Oh well, it's better than nothing at all". The spare magazines were located and loaded, although it took longer to find something to carry them in. The end product was a wide belt held up by suspenders. He wondered if the owner had bought everything from the same web site. A pack completed his shopping trip, even if he did still need a radio. On the way out the door, he snagged a spiffy green golf cap to replace the one in the creek. It was a long walk back to the farm, but maybe he'd get lucky and find some wheels.

Joker knew he wasn't going as fast as he should be, so this was going to be tight. He didn't think he could stop in time, the only solution that occurred to the pilot was to pull out the throttle. The engine surged for a moment before he hauled back on the yoke. He lost sight of the trees in the steep climb and held his breath. Seeing the tops of the trees from the side window let him breathe again and level off. Using large circles and a shallow climb, he gained height.

At last, he aimed the plane in the direction he thought he should go, then checked the compass. What was the point of flying if he had to follow the roads. He'd see the interstate sooner or later and then turn north. The interstate was crossed much sooner than he expected, after a turn north he spotted the airfield, but wasn't ready to land yet. It would hours before Trey could make it here and there was time for some sightseeing. He did end up using the roads to find the compound where Trey's brother and friends were holed up. Two flyovers were greeted with excited waves from most of the occupants and nobody shot at him.

"This is great, Trey should be here" he said out loud grinning. The white and yellow craft ventured further south and then made another long turn north. Sighting the prison, the pilot made several passes over the walls from different directions. The reception wasn't as wild as the original aircraft flyover, but any plane was cause for a celebration these days. "Too bad there was no place to land" the pilot thought to himself. The last pass was south west to north east and that was when he saw the convoy.
"Aw shit, more soldiers" Joker groaned. He made another circle, flying straight south down the road for a good look at the military group. "At least they aren't shooting at me" he thought, looking down at the figures looking back up at him.

The thief did some quick thinking, Trey would be showing up to drop off the woman and children and walk right into the new guys. Thinking his friend would be on the road by now, he flew back in that general direction. Every few moments he called over the radio, but never received a response. What was spotted, now that he was actively searching, were the dead. Mostly single, human shapes were seen here and there, although he did see pairs and one small group. None were on a road and from the air he couldn't even tell if they were moving. The black pickup truck wasn't spotted after he began flying the likely routes his friend would take. He zoomed the farm to the delight of the children in the yard, however their truck wasn't there either. He could land on the road behind the farm, however Trey would driving around Franklin looking for him. At a loss of what else to do, Joker headed for his home field as he thought of the Venango county facility.

They'd had their lessons at the field, but doing a solo was different. Joker flew over the site several times, remembering how Rose had made her approaches to land. The thief made several dry runs, reducing his speed each time, until he thought he had it right. He wiped his sweaty hands off on his shirt, licked his dry lips and went for it. The bird dropped lower and he kept nudging the throttle until he was worried he'd lose power altogether. He adjusted the flaps, then waited for the wheels to touch the pavement. For a second it seemed that he was coming in short of the runway, bounced once when the landing gear kissed the blacktop and then he was down. Touching the brakes, flaps up, throttle in and it still seemed like he was going too fast. As the craft slowed down, he breathed easier, turning onto the taxiway at walking speed. The short convict walked slowly around the plane sipping water from his canteen. "Things would go a lot better next time" he assured himself.

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Last edited by Groucho on Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 8:25 pm 
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YAAAAAAAAS! GREAT UPDATE!

Did find one error with Cherry's name. Right after the into and she walked back in there's this "Wanda returned to the kitchen"

Anywho, thank for the update. I thought for sure Joker would have spotted the truck.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:08 pm 
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Good catch on the name, thanks. Joker was flying a north east, south then northwest triangle, Cherry left going west.

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
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Groucho wrote:
Good catch on the name, thanks. Joker was flying a north east, south then northwest triangle, Cherry left going west.


Didn't catch that..... thanks! Answers that question! What's a criminal to do without his good pew pews! :D cant wait for the next update!

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 Post subject: Re: Doing Time
PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:13 pm 
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I really needed that new installment. I've missed Joker and the Thief.

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