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 Post subject: Cole; More on a Story
PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:34 pm 
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Why he was at the meeting, Cole could only guess. He was there mainly because Hannah had asked him to come along. It was a negotiation conference between the Clan and the Lodge, what he could add was next to nothing. The council of the Lodge consisted of nine people, most of whom Cole had never meet until this night. On the Clan side was Jay and Kyle as well as a couple other crew members who Cole recognized, but did not know their names. They were all sitting at a long conference table in a room that was in the lower level of the Lodge, near the bar and the dining area. He assumed that during the hay day of the Lodge as a vacation and meeting area, this room was used for high powered meetings of a different type and the location to the bar was a plus for the attendees.

Cole had been at the lodge for barely three days. He and others had been hiding in his two story house in the middle of Mansfield, Ohio, eking out an existence that could just be called survival. They had been hiding from both the undead and a vicious street gang that before the Plague was more content to sell crack and break into houses. Now that the systems of government were non-existent, the gang, the Rolling Twenties, had set about to bring as much of the remaining population under their control as they could. Several battles with them and Cole knew that he and his people had to find a way out of the city; they had jumped at the chance to leave once they had found out about the existence of the Lodge and other, less dictatorial survivors.

The Mohican Lodge itself was a large resort building that held close to a hundred rooms for guests, meeting halls, a large community room, two dining areas, an industrial kitchen with so far well stocked freezers and even a bar that was open on special occasions. The Lodge was situated on a peninsula that jutted out into the man made lake of Pleasant Hill. Surrounded on two sides by water, the third was a thick wooded area littered with old fence rows and a single, wide, twisting, black topped road that lead back to the rear of the property. Two separate gun emplacements guarded the road coming back to the building and foot patrols checked the property and the out buildings of cabins and utility sheds which dotted the peninsula. Included in those buildings was a small water treatment plant and a sewage plant that serviced only the Lodge. The various members were still trying to perfect the operation of those by using the log books nad the manuals they had found in the offices. The group had also managed to bring in a herd of cattle and milk cows from the surrounding farms, harvest what wheat, soy beans and corn they could as well as raid the local gardens to supplement the perishables in their larders.

All this information Cole had been able to garner from his conversations with an old flame, Hannah, who had managed to survive the down fall of the world. She was now a member of the governing body which set the goals and laws for the burgeoning community. That group was about to come to session in one of the meeting rooms of the Lodge; a late night meeting culminating after a raid back into Mansfield and the arrival of a group of well armed and supplied traders who had made it their job to scavenge the goods from the old world and act as suppliers for the various communities which had managed to survive the coming of the Zombies. Their arrival had been a shock to the small community which had previously thought they were seemingly the only ones left in the world.

The drapes on the long windows had been pulled back to expose the darkness beyond. In the light from the interior (they were on the generator power for the time, in keeping with the Lodge’s current luxury of having regular lighting for three hours a night, how long that would last depended on the fuel supply and resupply) Cole could see the drifting snow over the patio and into the Olympic-sized pool beyond. Across the way lights from various rooms shown through the darkness, almost making him forget that they were living in a far different type of world than the one that had pushed back the darkness with electricity and split the atom.

Dan, the mayor of the Lodge banged on the table with a small rubber hammer that looked like it would have been more at home in a tool box, calling the meeting to order. He saw that they had a secretary there to take notes. Cole wondered just who they were taking notes for, sometimes it seemed that there might not be anyone left to even read them in a few years.

Settling back in his chair, Cole listened as they started the meeting. Dan called it to order and declared it an “emergency meeting of the Mohican Lodge”, thus closing it to the general public, according to the bylaws of the constitution. Cole wondered just what constitution they were using. After some legalese Dan turned to Jay and Kyle.

“We want to try and work out an agreement that will not only benefit us here at the Lodge, but also your company. I understand that the main share holders are indisposed at the moment, but if we can at least get a semi-working agreement, then I think we will all feel better about things,” began Dan. “Now I know that any agreement we make here is subject to approval by the company’s shareholders, you’ve explained that to myself and Jesse already, but I want to be sure that any terms we come to here will be honored until that time.”

Jay cleared his throat before speaking. “The agreement we make here will be binding until Emma can give her seal of approval and the company can vote. Even so, she does have the final word--.”

“I understand,” assured Dan. “Let’s make the first order of business the question of payment for the time already spent here at the Lodge.”

“Fine,” agreed Jay. “We believe that with the goods already traded to the Lodge the payment should cover our stay to date. We’ve turned over,” he looked at one of the others for information and after receiving it turned back, “twenty cases of various types of food-stuffs to the Lodge to help with the resupply and have agree to add another twenty as payment for the rooms.”

“True enough,” agreed Dan, consulting a paper before him. “But according to our records you also have nine of our suppressors that have yet to be paid for. The agreement for those was that we would receive either material compensation to make new ones or weapons and ammo, none of which we have gotten.”

“Maybe not directly,” cut in Kyle. “But the people you sent with us to the Base did receive a fair share of weapons and ammo while they were there.”

Dan shook his head and held up a black notebook for them to see. “I know that you’ve not had the chance to read this, but it is our constitution. According to it, as with the Constitution of the United States, we have the right to keep and bear arms. Anything that an individual possesses belongs to them. We also have an armory for the defense of the Lodge, and the weapons we are talking about in this case would be put directly into that supply. The suppressors that we make are intended for trade, once we get that area open, and since they were traded to you, we expect the payment to be made to the Lodge.”

Jay gave a small laugh. “It seems to be a pretty good way to collect twice to me.”

“I’m sure that you all have the same arrangement with your people,” pointed out Jesse. “I’ve seen the racks of weapons you all have in that trailer; don’t tell me that those aren’t the company guns that are in addition to what each individual carries.”

With a frown, Jay grudgingly conceded the point. “So just what are you talking about as payment?”

Dan pulled up another sheet of paper. “The life of the suppressors are roughly forever, as long as you keep the internals changed out regularly. We will guarantee the craftsmanship of the can against normal wear and tear and will replace any faulty parts within reason. That being said; the price we’ve determined is a dollar amount that can be translated to the like price of goods. We’re using the old rate of exchange here in dollars mind you. According to our research, a suppressor cost on the average of $300 US. In addition to the base amount of the can, there was a two hundred dollar tax by the federal government. So you can figure that five hundred dollars times nine--.”

“Wait a minute here,” said Jay. “How can you determine that cost based on the old US dollar? Do you use that system here at the lodge? If so, I haven’t seen it in use. So far all I’ve seen is a crude barter-socialist economy where people work out trade value on their own and as long as they work, they share in the food and board. Not only that, but how can you randomly tax us on something according to a federal standard when there’s been no indication that that entity even exists any longer?”

As he listened, Cole wonder how else they would determine the value of an item; most people were going to agree on a rough dollar amount, and nearly everyone knew at least a ball park value of items before the world fell apart. As for the government, well, there had been no indication of a Federal power for months and he personally doubted that there would be one for some time to come. More than likely, the people who arrived representing the government would not be the most credible representatives of said power, or probably even real officials. Cole imagined that there were going to be a lot of claims to those powers until things were sorted out by the real people in charge.

Dan leaned back in his chair and the rest of the council cast looks around the table as they considered the points that Jay had made. Jesse leaned up to speak.

“While we might not have the payment per se, we do have a general determination of the value of goods verses services,” he told Jay. “And like Dan said, we are interested in starting trade, as long as there are people who are out there to trade with.” Jesse smiled and tapped the table with his finger. “How do you determine the value of goods?”

Jay looked over his shoulder at the other Clans people in the room and they exchanged grins. “Kinda like what you just said,” admitted Jay. He then shook his head. “I still have a problem with paying a tax on something when the system you are saying determines that tax might not even be in existence. After all, just who is going to do that background check on us to determine if we’re allowed under that law to own a controlled weapon?” Jay motioned to the walls. “After all, half of us are running around with military grade full autos—other than Kyle here, who has the background or federal okay to possess one of those?”

Everyone considered this as he spoke. Hannah spoke up from her place at the table. “Owen can have one, he had his before all this.”

“Okay,” said Jay. “So do we give all of them to Kyle and Owen to hold for us?”

The suggestion brought a round of tight grins to the people gathered. Jay breathed out a sigh before he continued.

He looked around the table. “I don’t have a problem paying a fair dollar for the item, but if you want to start talking about past laws and enforcing them, than you are going to have to have a way to back up the same law; that requires a background check that you don’t have the ability to conduct or even justify. How many people here wouldn’t be able to pass one that we don’t know about, but are fine and productive people in our world, right now.”

Cole saw Hannah and Jesse exchanged a look that held more information than he wanted to know about. There was an entire story in that look. The council people at the table bent their heads together and conversed for a long moment, with Cole just being able to make out every other word or so. They finally all looked up and Dan began to nod.

“We’re willing to concede that the tax might be frivolous considering the current state of the world,” he told Jay. Jay nodded. “So we’ll take a dollar for dollar trade in goods?”

Jay shrugged. “If that is what you want. We also can give you the price in silver or gold bar, bullion, coin or weight. Emma is considering taking the Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, or the Washington dollar coins.”

“Of which we have none,” said Dan. “Although it might be something to consider down the road, I think we’ll take the goods for the moment.”

Jay nodded. “I’d like to talk about our stay next. Since the weather has moved in on us, we’re stuck her until a thaw. What kind of price can we work for the rooms?”

“The block of rooms that you have now and food?” confirmed the mayor. “Well, I think that your peoples help with the guard duties and other work such as gathering wood, taking care of our livestock as well as helping with the general fortification of the Lodge should go a long way to paying for the rooms. As for the food, we’ll need to have use of your trucks and guns to get into Loudonville to the granary there for the soybeans, wheat and corn that can be gathered. There’s also several farms that still have some livestock I’d like to see here with us.”

“What about fuel?” said Jay. “We have what is in the tanks at the moment; do you have a supply?”

The table looked uncomfortable at that question. “We’re currently searching for a source that can be obtained without too much risk.”

“So no,” said Jay.

Kyle gave a short laugh that made everyone look over at him. He grinned sheepishly. “Too bad we didn’t think about that this morning,” he said. “The base and the airport both have tanks and tanker trucks we could have easily gotten to.”

“We can’t burn AvGas in our trucks,” pointed out Jay.

“But they have diesel and gas as well,” informed Kyle. “That way they wouldn’t have to depend on outside sources for fuel.”

“Well shit,” muttered Jay. The council looked at him as well. As he looked on Cole could see the wheels spinning behind the faces that suddenly became concerned about yet another shortage they were going to have to come to terms with. Several of the people leaned in to speak to each other and the comments made their way back up the table to Dan and Jesse. The two men spent several seconds in whispered conversation before Dan nodded with a sigh then looked over at Kyle and Jay.

“What would it take to get back up there?” asked Dan.

“Clear weather,” said Jay, “and some incentive.”

“We’ll talk about that when the time comes,” decided the mayor. “Now, what are we going to do about the people from the Clan who have approached us to stay?”

Jay sighed. “We can wait on that decision until Emma is better.”

“Fair enough,” agreed Dan. He looked around the table at the others. “Are we in agreement with everything discussed tonight, do we need to take a vote?”

There was nodding around the table that they agreed.

Jay then approached the subject of the Crew’s leader, Emma. “How long is she going to be in quarantine? I know you have a doctor of sorts here, but what are his qualifications to determine the scope of this virus he says she has?”

Dan uncomfortably cleared his throat. “He’s in the process of releasing her.”

“What does that mean?” demanded Jay.

“Just that,” said Dan, looking away for a brief second from the other man. With that look, Cole knew that the man was hiding something from all of them. He suspected that Jay did as well, but as if there was an unspoken agreement, the subject was not broached. “I imagine that she and Owen will both be released by tomorrow morning. Her fever has broken and I’m told she’s up and around.”

“When were we going to be told all this?”

“You were going to be notified,” was all Dan would say.

Cole felt that there was too much secrecy in those statements. He cast a glance at Hannah who in turn was looking troubled by the mention of the virus and the two members of the community they had put in isolation from the rest of the group. What the story was, Cole was not sure, but the underlying tone of the conversation did not sit well with him. He saw that others at the table were as curious as he happened to be about the veiled comments and expressions on the man’s face.

“Now unless you want to stay,” Dan said to Jay and the Clan, “we need to talk about the community that we discovered and how we’re going to approach that situation.”

Jay declined to stay as did the other crew members. Kyle, on the other hand, decided he wanted to stay. Cole for his part now knew why he had been asked to the meeting. He watched as the kilted people stood and filed out, then stood himself as the others did to stretch out his cramped muscles. Hannah waved him over to where she sat. He leaned down as she spoke to him.

“So what do you think so far?”

“I think that you all have been just existing for a while,” said Cole truthfully. “It seems that there’s a lot of things you’re not prepared for, like the fuel shortages and how to deal with other survivors.”

Dan heard his comments and interjected his own. “Some of that might be true, but you have to understand that just three short months ago, we were two separate groups of survivors, and hell bent on trying to kill each other for the most part. We’ve been not only working to survive, but come to terms with the past that we created after the Plague.”

Shrugging, Cole answered the man. “I understand a little about that; I’ve been living my own life by hiding out in my house and hoping that the Rolling Twenties didn’t show up on my door step. I’m just saying that with this many people to look after, some of the things that should be automatic to you as a group aren’t happening.”

“Such as?”

“Why aren’t you out looking for fuel supplies before it becomes urgent to secure them? Other groups might be looking as well and how are you going to handle having to barter or even buy those supplies?” Cole raised his hands to ward off any angry protest. “You all have done a great job so far, but I plan on going to see my friend and possibly get him here with me. Are you going to allow that, or are you going to say there’s enough now and you’ve got to find a place of your own?”

“Well,” replied Dan, “that’s next on our agenda.” He slapped his gavel down and brought everyone back to the table. After briefly introducing Cole, Dan had Jesse explain how they found the group of survivors and the impression he had gotten from the conversation with Billy. As Jesse spoke, Cole watched the expressions of the people at the table as Jesse told them about the veiled warnings Billy had given them. Several of the people shook their heads in anger at the possibility of a despot at their back door. When Jesse was finished Dan took over.

“Now I know that we’ve had brief discussions about how to handle other survivors, but now it appears that we’re going to have to look at this in a more serious manner. Up until now, we’ve simply been admitting the small groups of five or so to the fold and putting them to work as if they’ve always been a part of our little community.” Dan paused to take a drink from the water glass in front of him. “Just months ago, we ourselves had to come of a rather quick decision on what to do; join together or continue battling with our differences to separate us. We were able to come to an agreement after a few growing pains.

“With the arrival of the Company and their news that other communities exist, with the possible trade route opening and a system of barter at the very least being constructed, we have to decide just how we are going to handle our contact with other people.”

One of the others spoke up as Dan paused. “We have a way; we have been using the Constitution of the United States as our base laws. Why can’t we just continue to do so?”

“Well, Boyd,” cut in Jesse. “Others may not read the Constitution as we do, to put it simply. There was always a question as to the meanin’ of each segment of the Law, which is why we had the courts to rule on those disagreements. The other problem we need to look at is what if those people aren’t even looking at having a law like we do? It sounds to me that this headman where Billy is stayin’ is just tellin’ everyone how it is going to be because he owned most of the property where they are livin’.”

“Then how do we know that he’ll even let Billy and his brother go?”

“We don’t,” admitted Jesse. “But we’ll give ’em the chance.”

“Or else?” asked another.

“That’s what we need to decide,” said Dan. “Just how far do we want to go in all of this?”

“Well, we’ve got over a hundred people here now,” put in a voice. “We can’t really support many more than that. It seems to me that they’ll be on their own, despite what we want, or even don’t want.”

“So we just abandon them if they ask for help?”

“What kind of help can we give?”

“Technical support, medical help if needed.”

“With our resources or theirs?” came the question. “We’ve a finite amount of everything, and while there’s more out there for the taking, just how are we supposed to get it? Much of the stuff that we need, like medical supplies, medicine to be exact, is perishable. So far we’ve been lucky enough to have sanitation and water, lights and heat. What happens this winter if something breaks down or if someone comes down with a flu or God forbid a virus that we can’t handle with what we have. What if one of those people we’ve been helping gives us something? I think we need to be very careful about our contact from here on out.”

“So we limit our contact with others,” said another. “We can’t do that forever, just like we made the decision that we couldn’t wait for a helping hand from the government. We do need to have a way to deal with others, screen them, even quarantine them if needed. Dan is right in saying we’re going to have to come up with a way to treat other communities and if needed, combat them. Jesse is right about one thing; not everyone is going to see our way of governing as the right way.”

Dan spoke into the pause as the people considered the words of the speaker. “This is the Litmus Test for us, so to speak; how are we going to handle it?”

“Who is going to represent us?” asked Boyd.

All eyes searched the table waiting for someone to speak up. Cole realized that of those here at the table, nearly all of them had grown accustomed to being relatively safe behind the walls of the Lodge and the surrounding area. While they had all survived the collapse of the civilization they had grown up in, they were starting to relax into the new one they were creating and once more, as they had before, rely on others to take the chances. While the people here were survivors, they were also everyday people, and as such, quite willing to let others take the risk for them. Jesse finally sighed and gave a short laugh.

“I guess I’ll be the one to represent this forum,” he said. “With everyone’s blessing, of course.”

Cole had the feeling that several people at the table would be happy if Jesse failed and didn’t return. He kept his thoughts to himself and glanced at Hannah, who was sitting with pursed lips and an angry expression on her face. She finally spoke, speaking slowly and choosing her words as if she were examining each of them before she spoke them.

“Now, I have a problem with this,” she said. “Jesse has been the one who has led every foray into the world since we settled here. He’s taken the risks that no one else here has wanted to; he and Owen have been our eyes on the world whenever we’ve needed a pair to gaze beyond our walls. You all know that were I able, I’d be there beside Jesse; which one of you can say the same? Isn’t it time that someone else step up?”

Boyd cleared his throat to answer her. “We all have our skills, Hannah, Jesse and Owen have always been the risk takers among us. They just seem to be more comfortable than some of us when it comes to dealing with those situations.”

“Sure Boyd,” countered Hannah. “What are you going to do when those situations come to the gates of the Lodge?”

“I think we’re getting off track,” muttered Boyd. Hannah cast a glare at him that Cole would not have wanted to be on the receiving end of. Dan jumped in before she could retort.

“We are, after a fashion,” agreed Dan, “getting off track. Does anyone have a problem with Jesse doing this?”

There was no objection.

“Let’s outline some basic ideas for this encounter then,” said Dan. “Firstly, I think that we should strive to not exert any kind of suggestion that we’re trying to take over the community; we want to be sure that there is no threat, real or perceived, to the people there.”

“So we go under a white flag?” asked Jesse with sarcastic amusement in his voice.

“If that is what works best,” said Boyd. Hannah shot the man a look that made him scowl back.

“So to speak,” decided Dan. “We can extend our help if needed, but be sure they understand that our help is limited, for instance, we can’t give them food, but if needed, we can help them find their own.”

“How are we going to do that when we’re having a hard time getting enough for our own people?” came the question.

Dan grinned. “Well, we can offer to let them accompany us into Loudonville….”

There were shared smiles all around. The more people who went on that particular raid, the better the chances of survival were going to be. There were untapped resourses in the small town, but the number of undead within the borders of the town seemed to be triple what should be there. Many assumed that it was because of the tourist population and that people had fled to the small towns trying to escape the rise of the Zombies. It was strange that no one had taken over the Lodge because of this phenomenon; when the first had arrived, it had been strangely vacant.

“Do we offer to set up trade with the Company?” asked a voice, the speaker looking at Kyle.

Dan and Jesse shared a look. “We can’t stop them from trading with whoever they want, but if we can help with the introduction--.”

Kyle held up his hands to ward off any commitment on his part. “I’m just an employee, you need to get with Emma on that.”

Nodding, Dan looked back at the speaker. “We’ll wait on that. For now, just offer help and assurances that we’re not trying to take over.”

“What if people want to come back with us?” asked Jesse.

“Other than Billy and his brother?” once more there was a glance up and down the table. “I think that in order to decide that, we’ll need to find out just how many and go from there. We might have the room, but we’re fast running out of supplies to make it with what we have now; those that we got from the Base will just make it a little easier, that’s all.”

“Where are we going to put the extra people anyway?” asked another. “We have rooms now, but they’re single rooms with baths. Are we going to start sticking families in them and expect them to not have domestic problems? Right now, we’re good, everyone who wants a room to themselves has one, but with more people are we going to start doubling up and how do we decide who we put together? Do we leave them as it is and any new people have to share?”

“Let’s face it,” said Dan, “we never expected to get this big; there are many issues that we’re going to have to tackle in due course. For now, let’s deal with the new community we’ve encountered and go from there.”

Jesse looked at the gathered and spoke to all of them. “So for now, we’re offering the olive branch and we’re going to allow Billy and his brother to join us; everyone else is on a decision by the council basis?”

After a pause Dan nodded. “That seems to be it. Let them know we’re here to help.”

“And if they don’t want the help, wave goodbye and get out?”

“Sounds right,” admitted Dan.

“Hell of a plan.”

“Best we can come up with,” shrugged Dan.

“We’re going to have to come up with better at some point,” said Jesse.

There was no argument about that. The meeting was called to a close and Hannah stopped Cole before he could leave. He watched as she subconsciously put her hand on her swollen belly. She was pregnant by another, now dead, man, and Cole found that he did not care at all. Each time he looked at her, he could feel the stirring of the old fires and wondered if she were having the same feelings.

“Meet me and Jesse in my rooms,” she told him. Cole agreed to do so after he’d gotten some food. He walked to the dining room to find himself sharing a lonely table with Kyle. The Kid, as Emma seemed fond of calling him, sat down across from Cole with his tray of food.

“Are you going to stay here?” asked Kyle.

“I don’t know,” admitted Cole. “I’m still adjusting to the fact that I’m not sharing a five room house with eight other people.”

“I’m not staying,” said the kid. “I’m out of here as soon as Emma leaves. I’m going to try and get back to a unit or something that’s still operating, barring being able to do that, I’ll just stick with the company and see what I can do to help out there.”

Cole didn’t know what to say to that so he shoveled a forkful of food into his mouth. Kyle seemed to want to talk and he did so between bites.

“They don’t seem to like each other very much,” mentioned Kyle. “Dan and Jesse, I mean. In that whole meeting they were working real hard to be polite to each other. I wonder what happened?”

“Don’t know,” said Cole to keep up his end.

“It seems that we’re just destined to fight each other in one way or another,” said Kyle. “I’ll bet that there’ll be some pretty bad growing pains here in the next several months if no one else shows up to help out.”

“You mean no one else like a government?”

Kyle nodded. “When we were at the Base, I mean me and my flight crew, there was a message from the President of the United States, the last official message we got, it basically said for us to keep our positions as long as we could, that help in any form was going to be ‘delayed’ for the foreseeable future. Lt. Hope took that to mean that the government as we knew it was collapsing and that we as the military were just about the only thing left of the USA as a power.” He paused in his speech and seemed far away. With a shake of his head, Kyle came back and gave Cole a tight grin. “You in the military?”

“I did a two year stint in the Army and then another six in the Guard.”

“Yeah, well, you know there’s a shit load of junk out there just waiting to be picked up. I have to wonder how many of the bases are still operational, and how many of them are full of the Zombies, just waiting for some crack pot to make it in and declare himself king or something by using the weapons and tanks and shit to gain control. I mean, we’re just kinda lucky that the people who made this first raid on the Base here were what most people would consider to be responsible. Even with what’s left, if the Rolling Twenties decide to go and take a look, they could seriously do some damage to whoever might be left out there. It’s going to be a very fucked up world if someone doesn’t step up.”

Cole could not have agreed with the Kid more.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 8:24 pm 
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WOW part III in the trilogy!

Awesome man..can't wait for more

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:50 pm 
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don't go jinxin' us into a trilogy! this could turn into as many books as necessary, providing years of entertainment :twisted:


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:16 am 
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pimp

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Yes :D

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Good job. Like the other two, it's starting off great.

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The hallway was very quiet this late at night, or early in the morning, depending on the point of view. There was not much of a night life to be had at the Lodge since the distribution of alcohol was closely regulated by the council and the bar only open for Friday nights and special occasions. Even then, the three drink limit curtailed the dedicated boozer and sent the others into light headedness rather quickly with the tolerance level dropped to all time lows. He had not yet had the opportunity to enjoy a drink; but he was hoping to soon. According to others that he had spoken to, the bar-nights tended to be fairly loose and brought the population out of the wood work, even those who normally did not drink in the old days were seen to sip from the bottle now. Cole wondered just how he would react to having a drink again; at the house what little alcohol they had was used for purely medicinal purposes and not wasted on the casual nip.

He nodded to the patrolling guard that passed him, a heavily armed man with a portable radio hanging from a tac vest and wired for sound in his off ear. He found the constant guard both comforting and disconcerting. It was nice to have people watching out for trouble, but at the same time Cole found it oppressive that nothing could happen without someone else knowing about it. Midnight liaisons would be a challenge at the Lodge. Cole felt his face color at the thought and wondered just why he had even considered this meeting anything other than two old friends exchanging a word about old times.

Stopping at the door number that Hannah had given him, Cole steeled himself before knocking. He wished that he had a clue as to why she had requested the meeting. Was it old times that had brought the request or Lodge business that he was suddenly a part of by default? With a light knuckle, Cole tapped on the door and it was opened after a moment by a woman who Cole had not yet met. She was small, with dark hair and big eyes. After peering at Cole for a second, she stepped aside and ushered him in, closing the door before introducing herself.

“I’m Stacy,” she said. “Hannah’s roommate. We met after the plague hit. She’s in the bed room right now, have a seat.”

Cole returned her greeting and introduction, stepping into a sitting area which was lit by a kerosene lantern, its soft glow casting a warm light over the space that contained a couch and two large chairs. Cole looked around the room, noting the dining table and small kitchenette. The place had a cluttered home feel to it that was marred only by the presence of the rifles stacked against the furniture and leaning in corners. Pistol belts littered the table tops and ammo boxes were stacked next to cases of MRE’s and canned foods. Cole assumed that the place was stocked against a possible attack and over run of undead or other siege. It seemed a little out of place in the suite of the Lodge, but considering the circumstances of the times, perfectly normal for the occupants to think in these ways. Stopping in the center of the room for an uncomfortable moment, Cole finally picked a chair and sat while Stacy poured a small glass of what looked to Cole to be from a wine bottle. She brought it over to him and handed the tumbler to him, raising one of her own in toast.

“Don’t worry, it’s still good,” she told him. He peered at the liquid, the ruby color glowing in the dim light.

“What is it?”

“Port,” she said. “The last of the bottles we had before they took the booze for the common good. Hannah and I stashed it along with a bunch of others. I thin we’ve got some Wild Turkey left if you’d rather.”

Cole shook his head. “This is fine.” He touched the rim of Stacy’s glass and took a tentative sip. The fortified wine was smooth to the taste and he gave a little shiver as the alcohol burned into his stomach. The feeling was very good. He could taste the berry in the drink, as well as a hint of chocolate. Months without the flavor had heightened his awareness of the subtleties involved in the flavor of the drink. He wondered what flavors he would find in other wines if they were available for sampling. Stacy sat on the couch and pulled out a pack of rolling paper and a pouch. Cole raised an eye at the makings.

Stacy grinned. “Pipe tobacco mixed with cigarette tobacco,” she explained. “I’d prefer another kind of smoke, but we haven’t found any yet. It’s got a funky taste at first, and it’s dry as hell, but I’ll make do.”

“Isn’t it bad for Hannah?” asked Cole, arguing with his limited medical lore.

“One for me?” shrugged Stacy. “Might be, but she likes the smell of the pipe stuff.” Stacy shook the pouch. “Not much left anyway. I think this is the last of the papers too. I might have to switch to one of the corn cob pipes that are making a comeback if I want to keep it up.”

She concentrated on rolling the paper. Cole could see that she had a lot of practice. Finishing the roll, Stacy held out the finished product to him. Cole declined, so Stacy lit a match and inhaled. The cherry of the pipe tobacco wafted across the room to him. It was pleasant and went well with the port. Not long after, Hannah came out of an adjacent room. Cole sat up on seeing her, admiring the way she looked in her oversized t-shirt and the robe she wore. Hannah’s hair fell in a soft tangle around her face, softening her features and making her look several years younger than her age. But for the rounding belly, She could have been the girl he had dated just a couple years before. Hannah looked over at Stacy who was sitting with her eyes closed and enjoying the smoke and her glass of port.

“You going to bed?” asked Hannah.

Stacy cracked open an eye at the other woman and then glanced at Cole. “I think I’ll go see what Isaac’s up to.”

With a grin, Stacy headed to the door with the glass and faux-cigarette in hand. “Don’t wait up for me kiddies.”

The door clicked shut, leaving Cole and Hannah with a moment of awkward silence. Cole finally broke the moment by putting the glass on the coffee table. “You wanted to see me--.”

Hannah took up a place on the couch. “I wanted to see you--.”

She settled herself for a moment, then sighed. “I forgot my glass.”

Cole stood and looked around the room, grateful for the distraction. “I’ll get it.”

“It’s in the bedroom,” she told him.

Hesitating for just a moment, Cole stepped into the room and saw the normal furnishings; dresser, two queen-sized beds with rumpled sheets, clothing and firearms scattered around the room. He spied the glass in question, grabbed it and went back to the outer room. After handing it to Hannah, he headed back to the chair, but was stopped by Hannah.

“Just sit on the couch.”

He did so and waited for her next instructions.

“So, tell me how you made it,” said Hannah.

Cole cleared his throat and began with the final hours before the epidemic became the plague. He told her how Billy had helped him get his house ready, how his neighbors had joined him in the last moments before the city had fallen and then the long months of surviving, looting houses and hiding. Hannah listened, asked questions and Cole felt the time fade as they spoke. In turn, she told him about her own escape from the apartment complex and subsequent battles with undead, militiamen and the battle that brought the remains of the little town of Coulter and the militia together at the Lodge. They spoke more on the people who had been in the house with him and the conditions they had been existing under. Cole found it to be strange that had not seen the others from the house for several days, his having been busy with the rescue and the need to simply put some space apart from those he had been in such close proximity with for a few days. Living in five rooms with nine people could be wearing to say the least.

Seeing the expression on his face, Hannah shook her head. “You okay?”

“I am,” decided Cole. Cole had finished his port and the glass now lay empty on the coffee table.

“So what about the father?” he tentatively asked her.

“Freddy?” she asked in a surprised way.

“I suppose--.”

“He’s dead, Cole,” she told him in a matter of fact way. “even if he weren’t, well, I didn’t love him. Having a baby with him was not something that I planned on, I certainly didn’t plan on his dying and leaving me with a legacy.”

Cole frowned. “Is that what the baby is, his legacy?”

Hannah shook her head. “You’re getting angry at a dead man, Cole. I guess that the legacy is more one of the human race surviving, than a man’s progeny going out into the world. The baby’s mine, Cole, no one else’s. I will share him or her with the person I see fit. I’m not going to hold my child and think fond memories about a man I knew for four weeks.” She leaned toward him. “What about you? Are there women in that house that I could be jealous of?”

“Two lesbians and a teenager?” laughed Cole. “I think not.” He shook his head as if to clear the air. “I guess I see your point. It’s not like we didn’t have lives before and after each other.”

“Very true,” admitted Hannah. “So, what next?”

Cole found himself staring at her, taking in her face, her eyes and all that was her. “I hope we can decide that together,” he found himself saying.

“You like fat women, uh?” joked Hannah, touching her belly and dropping her head.

“I like you,” agreed Cole, suddenly feeling bold. “I never really stopped.”

She shook her head. “Slow down, big boy, you’ll make me think that you have other intentions.”

He shrugged and picked up the empty glass. “I might.”

“Well, get this rescue of your buddy done first,” she told him, struggling a little to get to the edge of the couch. He held out a hand to help her and she slid to the edge and then stood once her feet were under her. She did not let go of his hand once she was up. “You will come back?”

“On my shield or under it,” he replied, trying to add some levity to the conversation.

“Don’t even joke about that.”

Impulsively, Cole gave her a hug. She returned the embrace, burying her head into his chest. “I’ve missed you.”

“Hell, you’re the one who told me to leave,” laughed Cole at the top of her bent head.

“I never told you to leave, I said if you wanted to, then just go,” she corrected.

“It didn’t sound like that on my end,” he murmured into her hair.

She pulled back and looked up at him. “I never wanted you to leave, I wanted you to stop finding reasons to leave.”

Cole felt as if he had been punched. He took a deep breath. “Can you forgive me for being stupid?”

“When do I need to start?”

“Now?”

Hannah gave a small nod. “I forgive you for being stupid, Cole. Don’t continue to be that way. I’d like you to be around for a while.”

Suddenly, Cole felt his heart expand and he was able to give her a slow smile. “I’d like that too.” He cleared his throat and started to pull away from her. “I need to get some sleep--.”

Stopping him, Hannah pulled his face down to hers. “Stacy won’t be back.” She lightly kissed him. He returned the brush of her lips with a more substantial kiss.

“Get me up in the morning,” he said to her, bending just enough to sweep her up into his arms.

“They’re not going anywhere without you,” she told him as he carried her into the bedroom.

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i just wanted to say how much i enjoyed Owen as it came out chapter by chapter back when i was lurking (and Awwphuch's cheerleading - i looked forward to that almost as much as each next chapter). :D

Easily the best online/or otherwise reading i've done in a long long time - i'd sort of given reading as a pasttime away. Owen had me by the throat from minute 1.

I'm sorry i missed Hannah before it was taken down. I have a pertinent question re some character development/background in that that came up in Owen but maybe I should ask it in the Owen thread.

Cole is stacking up to be as good already. My compliments to the chef.

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nice - yay for more pron!

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Readers might notice a time discrepency in the story, namly Emma and Owen being under quarentine, this story starts right after they return from the Base, and so Emma and Owen are out of commission for several days during this writing.

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Cole gathered the things he thought he might need for the short trip to get Billy and his brother. The night before Jesse had agreed to come with him as had Hank and Mitch, Owen’s friends, and Hannah’s friend, who she jokingly called Uncle Isaac, a man just reaching his early twenties. He had been a part of the group Hannah had escaped with and was sleeping with her best friend, Stacy. The five of them were going to be taking two vehicles, the Yellow Toyota Land Cruiser and Cole’s red truck. The council had wanted them to take one of the Hummers but it had been decided that they would not push the issue of taking the big vehicles because of the problem of payment for the services to use them. The Crew was after all, a for profit organization and currently there was not much profit in running the Lodge. Plus, Cole did not want to give the impression of an invading army if there were really problems with the attitude of the small group’s leader as Billy had hinted at. With the truck and the Toyota they could easily get Billy’s belongings as well as his brother’s and the friend that Cole had met just the day before. Cole was finding it hard to believe that it had only been the day before with all that had happened. Emma was still out of commission, her fever had her floating in a dream-state where she hardly recognized those around her, Owen was doing well, but had been confined to the bed to let the bullet wound heal. The dog had been busily tearing up the room he had been confined to, growling and barking so that he could be heard several hallways away. They finally moved the beast into the room with Owen and that had settled the animal down somewhat.

No one had been able to give the creature a bath as of yet.

The doctor was working on trying to find something in Emma’s blood work and the dog’s samples that would explain her fever with no published results so far.

Hannah watched as Cole slipped into his Carhart jacket and slung the bandolier containing the 30 round magazines for the M4 over his shoulder. He was toting a Sig Sauer pistol taken from the armory at the Base in addition to his Star 30PK that had seen him through the first months of the outbreak. He grinned at Hannah as she watched, admiring the picture she created as she sat on the bed of the small room he had been assigned. They had returned to it in the late morning so that he could get his gear for the trip. His belongings were still in bags and boxes from the sudden exodus from his house and someday he hoped to get back to the building to at least claim a few of his more personal belongings, if not reclaim the house itself. Of course from the condition of the house after Owen’s battle, he doubted that it would be livable again if the world ever got back to normal.

“What are you grinning at?” she scolded him.

“Seeing you again,” he told her. “Holding you again.”

She reached up for him and he helped her off his small bed. It was a natural thing for her to be folded into his arms from there. Hannah buried her head into his chest and took a deep breath while Cole did the same, inhaling her scent, trying to memorize all he could of her.

“Well--,” she left it there, and then pulled away. “Jesse will be waiting on you.”

Cole led the way out of the room and to the Great Room, which was the only working entrance into the Lodge. They had closed off most of the other doors except for the ones that led out onto the patio and pool area, which could easily be protected because of the height of the raised patio in which the pool was set. They walked down the long glass walled hall which over looked the outer pool area on one side, and the indoor pool on the other. The indoor pool was still being used mainly as a huge water storage since no one could come up with another use for the space at the moment. Glancing out at the patio, Cole could see that the weather was starting to clear and the snow was getting the icy sheen of melt.

Once they reached the Great Room Jesse and the others were there waiting, each of them looking as if they had just woken, even though it was late morning. Even though the drive was relatively short, they had planned to arrive at the community as early as possible to avoid any kind of organized confrontation that the headman might be able to put up. The less time that they were given to think, the better chances they had of escaping without altercation. Cole did not know just what, if any, altercation they might get into, but from the cryptic words Billy had been able to deliver, it seemed that the leader might just object to loosing manpower.

In essence, Jesse and the others carried the same weaponry that Cole was toting, each rounding out the armament with personal choices, Jesse and Isaac’s being a single shot shotgun each. Cole wondered what the significance of those were but before he could ask, he saw Kyle walking down the hall toward them. They waited until the kid drew even with them and spoke.

“You all are going to head for that guy?” he asked.

“That’s the plan,” said Cole.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to tag along with a couple others,” he motioned to several seated people that Cole had not noted due ot his still sleep addled brain and the turmoil of his emotions with Hannah being so near. He was glad she was not going, otherwise he would have been distracted to the point of being dangerous to himself and others. Cole saw Mike and two others of the Clan stand in the shadows created by the morning sun. “We’d like to loan you the use of one of the fifties in case things look like they’re getting stupid. Thought a few more rifles would help things along, too.”

“We don’t want them to think we’re invading--,” said Cole.

“No, but you don’t want them to say no, either.”

For a brief moment, Cole thought about turning the Kid down; his goal was not to appear to invade, just get his friend out. But, the thought of having an armored Hummer at the ready to pull his ass out if he needed it was comforting. Smiling with the other, Cole held out his hand. “Glad to have you along.”

Kyle shook the hand that he offered and the others sleepily joined them.

“So, what’s the plan?” asked Mike.

Shrugging, Cole gave them his quick, simple outline. “The road they’re on is a dead end, but I think that won’t be a problem, the barrier they had set up looked to me more like a way to discourage people rather than a stronghold to keep them out. I think that they are depending on their unseen rifleman in the woods to keep people out.”

“We’ve got a way around that one,” said Kyle. “I thought we’d drop off a couple in the woods down the road and let them work their way up while we give them a few minutes before we head in. Besides, who really wants to argue with a .50?”

“What will the your guys in the woods do?” asked Cole.

“Neutralize him,” grinned Mike.

“I want to leave a good impression,” reminded Cole.

“We’ll just root him out of his hidey hole,” assured Mike.

“They know that we want to try to make friends,” smiled Kyle. “It’ll be me and Mike in the woods, Brad here will be driving the Hummer and Tess will be manning the .50. We’ve all got some military behind us, so we can follow orders. We won’t kill anyone until you tell us to.”

“Why don’t we have some kind of system for signaling you if things go bad?” suggested Cole. “You can just hang back off the road so they don’t think we’re trying to invade. We’ll go in with just the trucks to begin with, to try and be nice about it.”

“They already know we have the Hummers,” reminded Kyle.

“Why shove it in their faces?” pointed out Cole. He knew how he would have felt had an armed party shown up on his doorstep, swinging a .50 caliber machinegun in his face. “What signal are we going to use?”

“Why not use radios?” Kyle suggested, holding up a small handheld. “We’ve got plenty to go around.”

Feeling properly admonished, Cole took the small twoway from Cole and hefted it. He had been living without technology for so long he had forgotten that it was still around. “How does Emma feel about you coming along?” asked Cole, unsure if she was awake enough to be aware of what was going on.

“I managed to talk to her last night with Jay,” informed Kyle. “She’s on board.”

Cole wondered what else they had spoken about, but decided that was none of his concern since he was a minor player in the business of the Lodge, if one at all. He continued with his plan. “Once we’re passed the barricade and that’s under control, we can roll in and get a better idea of what the situation is like, some of this we’ll have to play by ear, but the main thing is to get Billy and his brother out.”

“What if others want to come?”

Looking over at Jesse and Hannah, he shrugged. They had spoken to the council about this very thing last night when getting their approval to go. It had been decided that any newcomers would have to be evaluated according to their skills and willingness to assimilate into the evolving culture of the Lodge. Emma had been right when she had told Jesse that the Lodge was becoming the basis for a new type of government, it was now going to be up to them to decide just what kind of a society would emerge. At the meeting last night, several people had been concerned about the strain on the Lodge’s stores; the Clan had already taken a toll and though it was being replenished, it was anyone’s guess as to when the winter would truly hit and when spring would arrive. Once spring arrived, they had to decide on just how they were going to feed the community, and if the farms locally could support the growing population, then how to protect the farmers as they worked. They had ended up with more questions than answers and it had finally been settled that any new people were going to have to prove themselves before full Lodge privileges would be granted. Cole explained this briefly.

“They can come, but they have to live by the rules,” he said. “Anyone else?”

“Are you trying to set up a trade location?” asked Kyle.

“If the head guy wants to trade, we will work something out.” Cole sighed after a glance at Jesse who had been keeping quiet through the conversation, which Cole found annoying. It wasn’t like he was a member of the council or anything. “Of course going in with guns drawn might not make a very good impression.”

“In this day and age, is there another option?” wondered Kyle. “If we don’t, we look like idiots when they start shooting first, if we do, they think we’re invading. I think this is the best plan, get past the outer guard one way or another and then negotiate from there.”

After a moment of silence, Cole hefted his M4. “Let’s get going then….”

He gave Hannah a quick hug, not letting himself linger too long since he did not want to have the opportunity to change his mind. Jesse hugged her as well and they trooped out the door. They were met with the bright but cold morning. The snow had stopped during the night and left a thick layer covering the previous night’s tracks, squeaking underfoot as they trudged to the vehicles. Cole took the sunshine to be a good sign. He climbed into the truck, glancing over as Jesse took the passenger’s seat.

“You ready for this?” asked Cole.

“I’m just here to make sure you don’t get shot in the back,” said Jesse. “This is your ballgame.”

“Okay, Mister Councilman, I understood that you were along to work out a deal with this other community so they wouldn’t want to come here,” replied Cole.

“Sort’a. I didn’t want to say anything in the meeting last night, but I’ve got a bad feelin’ about this little adventure tomorrow, Cole,” said Jesse. “I know that this Billy is your friend and all, but we know nothin’ about the guy who is in charge of this compound he’s stayin’ at. I really think we need to take our time with this one. I was just kind of wonderin’ what your plan might be for the meetin’?”

Cole frowned as he listened to the other man speak. “Wasn’t it decided tonight to just get Billy and his brother out? Beyond that, I thought that the negotiations would be held by you and someone else from the Lodge.”

Jesse grinned. “I negotiate better from the end of a shotgun,” he admitted. “Dan and them sent me along because none of them want to go. They’ve gotten used to pretendin’ to be safe here at the Lodge and I guess that I let them think like that to get what I want.”

“Which is what?” asked Cole.

“The freedom to leave as I see fit,” admitted Jesse. He waved a hand at the Lodge. “I can be tactful if needed. But I was hopin’ that you’d see your way to bein’ the point on this one. You don’t know much about us here and so when questions are asked, you can be truthful when you can’t give a good answer. I think we should go in soft, look the place over an’ kinda size it up. If they guy is just bein’ made out to be a fuck, then we’ll know, if he is a shithead, we can act accordingly.”

Jesse took a Juice box from his coat pocket and fiddled with the small straw while he spoke. “Dan wants us to take a hundred pounds of rice and beans with us as a how-do-you-do ice breaker. These days everyone can use food, but I think that might be a mistake; showing them that we can spare food, so we’re a target.”

“It might also show that we’re able to do this because we’re strong enough to hand it out.

“Yeah, well, for the most part, I’m here ‘cause Hannah wants me to be,” admitted Jesse. “I’m getting to old to be running around in the cold and dodging bullets.”

“You do a lot for Hannah?”

“More than I should,” grinned Jesse. “But she’s so cute, I just can’t say no.”

Jesse sipped from the juice box and cast a hard eye at Cole. “You knew her a long time?”

“I knew her for a while,” agreed Cole. “We were close.”

“Is that a polite way of saying none of my business?” asked Jesse.

Thinking for a moment, Cole shrugged as he opened the door to his truck. “I think I could have made a life with her, had we not been so eager to fight everything out. I loved her, there are times since when I thought I still did. Maybe still do. Is that what you wanted to know?”

“I’m not sure,” admitted Jesse. He finished off the juice box and tossed the remains into the bed of the truck. “But do I have to give you the speech?”

“The don’t hurt her speech?” asked Cole. Jesse nodded. “We’re grownups, Jesse. Our decisions are ours. But I don’t plan on hurting her.”

The older man nodded. “I’m fuckin’ cold, standin’ out here listenin’ to you.” He and Cole climbed into the cab, arranging their weapons as they did so.

Cole fired up the truck. “Well, old man, let me warm it up in here for you.”

“Thanks, son,” he replied rolling his eyes.

Cole put the truck in 4 wheel drive and then gear. They rolled out with the others following.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 12:24 pm 
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quick follow up, just the way i like it....but where the heck is the gun porn man?

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Sweet. :D

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yep, you're up to your high standard.
great stuff doc.

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Keep 'em comin'

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More to come soon... finally squeezing it in between work and play....

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hey doc, i know you're busy but i think you missed this...
http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=14726&start=216

it's driving me crazy. I. MUST. KNOW. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 4:47 am 
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Great updates Doc!

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Muy coolio story, didn't see this one coming. 8)


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:23 am 
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The heat had finally kicked on in the red truck. Cole thought about the former owner of the truck; old braggart named Lee who had shown up in his driveway by pure chance several weeks after the plague had hit. The man had been waving a pistol and carrying a couple grocery bags of food, looking for a place to hide out from the Rolling Twenties and the walking dead. He said that the boarded up house looked as good a place as any to try and weather out a few days—the old fart had ended up finding the others huddled in the upper floors hoping he would go away. Cole had finally opened the door when the man had found an axe and made motions to cut through the barrier to get in the house. Lee had nearly dropped the axe in surprise at finding more people alive inside. According to Lee, other than the gang bangers, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of people left alive in town.

“Weather must have brought out the birds,” commented Jesse. Cole glanced up into the sky and saw that there were several dozen birds in the clear air, darting down to the trees and back up. He wondered about the number, but reminded himself he was in the country, rather than the city; where it had seemed that life had vanished from the face of the earth. Of course having to spend most of his time inside had not helped his view of the world around him.

Letting a small smile spread across his face, Cole remembered all the times the little group had lived through, the funny things and the scary things. Lee had been a godsend if for the old man’s crass sense of bravado if nothing else. It had been Lee that had made the first decision to start clearing the other houses on the block, looking for food and any weapons there might be inside them, and finally venture further out. Cole had thought about doing so, but at the time with just himself, two women who could barely shoot and a 14 year old boy to take care of, Cole had never wanted to risk it. Lee had been looking forward to leaving the cramped space at the house, ready for another adventure, but his luck had turned the second they started for the Lodge, his life ending with a stupid mistake. Cole felt the loss of the man not only because of the friendship, but the ending of yet another human life in a world where life was becoming even more precious than ever. He wondered just how live at the Lodge was going to go and grimly, if they were going to make it as a race in general. Jesse’s words snapped him out of his reverie, making him shake his head to clear the thoughts away.

“What’s that up ahead?” demanded the older man.

Cole instinctively let up on the gas and peered through the bright morning sun at the roadway. There was a slight rise before them, and the road feel away for a brief span, than came back up. At the top of the further rise boiled what seemed to be a mass of people walking toward them. Cole hesitated on seeing them, wondering just what the half naked people were doing walking around on a cold morning such as this. His short time around the living had dulled his senses somewhat and it took a moment for him to register that the walkers were actually dead. Above their heads hovered a swirling mass of birds, all kinds of birds, darting down and pecking at the exposed flesh of the beasts, tearing small portions of the dried meat away, then flying back into the sky. Some of the feathered scavengers were bold enough to come to rest on the heads and shoulders of the things as they staggered, oblivious to the things that tore at them.

“Jesus Christ,” exclaimed Cole. “Where did they come from?”

Jesse spoke as he began to pull free his weapons. “I have no clue, but we need to go, even with that fifty on the Hummer, we don’t have enough to get through them.”

Cole stared for a second at the mass of Zombies. Jesse was right, even at ramming speed the collected ghouls would do more damage to the truck than it was worth to try to get through them. The radio buzzed and Cole picked it up as he tried to find a place to turn around.

“What the hell?” came Kyle’s voice.

“Lot’s of Zombies,” informed Cole, “We need to get the hell out of here.”

Cole looked over his shoulder and saw that the Hummer was just coming into view and stopping. The gunner was in the hatch and pointing the big barrel of the machinegun down the road. The face of the driver was obscured by the sunlight off the windshield, but the big vehicle began to back up almost instantly. Behind him, the Toyota was doing the same, the barrels of weapons were being shoved out of the windows as the thing went sideways in the road, slipping on the icy surface of the snow. Cole watched in horror as the Land Cruiser keep sliding and went off the roadway into the deep ditch at the side of the road. The tires of the big SUV spun on the snow, kicking up the white substance from the rear only; they had forgotten to lock out the front wheels. Soon the snow was replaced by mud and leaves in the air around the vehicle. Swearing, Cole hit the reverse for the truck, backing to where the Toyota struggled in the mush that was trapping it. Jesse rolled down the window to shout at the occupants. His voice was greeted by the moan of the hundreds of undead as they surged forward, attracted by the movement of the vehicles. The birds suddenly took flight, a black cloud that rose into the air above the trees.

Cole brought the truck to a sliding halt, fighting the trucks propensity to get sideways in the road. Hank suddenly bailed out of the Toyota, dragging a chain with him as he came. Mitch was also out of the Toyota, darting to the front of the vehicle and bending to affix the other end of the chain Hank carried to the front of the pushbar. Hank disappeared at the rear of the truck and then was back up, running in the slippery snow to the window where Jesse sat.

“We’re going to lock out the wheels,” panted Hank, looking very worried, glancing at the heaving mass of Zombies that surged toward them, their cries filling the air, punctuated by the calls of the birds in the air above them. Cole could see that Mitch was currently at the first tire, swearing loud enough to be heard over everything else.

“It’s too icy,” growled Jesse. “Just get in the back.”

“Just try,” returned Hank over his shoulder and running back to help Mitch.

“Damn them,” snarled Jesse as he opened the door. He looked at Cole as he pulled his CAR after. “Give it a try, if it doesn’t go, then I’ll release the chain.”

“We don’t have much time,” warned Cole, looking at the undead staggering in the heavy snow toward them. They seemed to move very fast despite their atrophied limbs. Many of the things fell in the drifting snow to be stepped on or over by their fellows, but they continued to move forward; their single-mindedness disconcerting. Cole absently wondered why they had not frozen with the temperature still in the low 20’s, but he did not have time to wonder further.

Jesse was starting to shoot at the lead ghouls, his rounds thumping into flesh with hollow sounding impacts. The crack of his rifle sounded sharp in the cold air, carrying into the wood on either side and sending the birds into a cacophony of feathered shrieks. Suddenly, the world exploded behind him, and Cole found himself ducking at the noise. The air was full of the chugging of the Ma Duce as the gunner on the Hummer added his support to Jesse’s seemingly feeble attack. The front line of the undead stopped as if they had run into a barrier when the 700 grain bullets struck the dried bodies. Several of the things lost limbs to the screaming bullets, the high velocity rounds tore through the front ranks and into those behind, knocking some down, ripping off appendages and destroying whole sections of torso. Cole was amazed to see that despite the damage the big weapon was inflicting, very few of the things dropped to the snow immobilized.

The gunner shifted his point of aim as the rounds thunked into the bodies. Heads began to disappear under the barrage, the bodies falling to the roadway and staying down. The Zombies behind took the still speeding slugs in the upper chest and shoulders, spinning away and falling only to get back up. The big weapon only slowed them, but did not stop them from advancing. When the foe had no fear, the psychological effect of the weapon was strangely reversed. Cole was suddenly afraid.

“Son-of-a-bitch, Jesse,” yelled Cole, “they’re not stopping.

“No shit,” called back Jesse. He began to wave his hand for Cole to drive. “It’s locked out, pull.”

Cole put the truck in drive and felt the chain jerk as he put pressure on the links. Behind him the Toyota was reved up and the tires started to spin again. Mitch and Hank watched from their vantage point outside the Toyota, each griping weapons and shouting at Isaac to give it more. The tires, worn form who knew how many miles tried to bite into the slippery surface but now that the rear was so dug in, the rubber simply burned through the snow, digging the vehicle deeper.

The Ford in return as starting to bounce on the snow, it’s own tires slipping and digging through the icy surface. Cole stopped trying and backed the truck up, feeling the Ford bounce over the ruts he had created. Jesse was shooting faster now, and Hank had joined him in firing. The .50 was still chugging behind them, but there seemed to be no end to the dead. Kyle was yelling something over the radio, but the small speaker was distorting his words. Cole understood the gist of the tinny speech; get out of there.

He called to Jesse. “Move it now.”

Jesse looked over and nodded, pointing to the bed of the truck and yelling at Hank. Hank nodded, then held up a hand as he raced to the Toyota, making cut off motions with his hand. Jesse could be heard to swear as he unhooked the chain from the truck. Isaac bailed out of the Land Cruiser with his BOB and bandoliers of ammo hanging from his neck and shoulders. Hank reached back into the SUV and grabbed his own gear, his arms loaded with weapons and ammo, his BOB dangling from his one hand while he shot the M4 with the other. Mitch, who was on the far side of the Toyota was slower on the up take. He watched as the other two grabbed gear and for reasons known only to him, continued to shoot into the undead that was now massed just yards away from him. Jesse was yelling at him, as were the other two. Mitch finally seemed to understand that he too needed to move.

Mitch turned away to get back in to the Toyota for his own gear.

Before him stood a Zombie that had found an easy path trough the trees, where the snow had not fallen so heavily. Behind it a dozen more of its comrades staggered, breaking through the undergrowth to where the man now stood. Mitch shot the thing and stepped over its fallen body to reach into the Toyota, oblivious to the yelled instructions of Jesse to leave it and run.

Cole felt the truck bounce as Hank and Isaac dove into the bed, their rifles suddenly adding to the exploding air in the cab. Swearing, Cole put the truck in gear and tried to kick up enough speed to get to the man who was on the verge of becoming trapped. Jesse saw that the truck was moving and grabbed the side of the bed, swinging himself into the compartment while the Ford fishtailed around with Cole desperately trying to get to where Mitch had a change to run to them.

Mitch pulled out a load of gear and found he had taken too long. The undead were now at the rear of the Toyota. Swearing, Mitch dropped the gear in the snow to swing up his M4. The little weapon stuttered out a burst and then stopped. Mitch lost another second staring at the little rifle, his brain slow to register that he had run the weapon dry. He first instinct was to reach for a reload, his fingers dropping the first mag in the snow at his feet as he struggled to keep his cool in the face of the nearness of the threat. After a second debate, Mitch let the M4 fall to the end of its sling and freed his pistol, firing it at the head of the nearest Zombie. The thing feel at his feet, Mitch turned away from those only to find that the ones on the road had staggered to his location. The Beretta was shooting in all directions now, the slide locking back as Mitch tried to climb on top of the Toyota, his booted feet slipping on the cold metal. He managed to get to the hood of the Toyota, where in a break in the action, he was able to reload the M4 and the pistol.

From the rear of the truck, the other three tried to lend supporting fire, but the trucks movement on the icy surface made aim difficult at best. The .50 was chugging at the things as well, but now that Mitch was trapped, the gunner was trying to keep the rounds from hitting the man.

More undead poured from the road and wood. The massed bodies were taking over the space in which Cole had to maneuver and escape.

Jesse hit the top of the truck. “Move it, Cole, get us out of here.”

“Mitch,” yelled Cole back at the man.

Jesse bent to speak through the rear slider. “If you don’t go now, we’re going to be him, now think; move it.”

Cole took a deep breath and than nodded. He pointed the truck toward the gap and moved. Behind him, Mitch was still shooting, Cole didn’t pause to look to see what happened, he simply drove passed the Hummer and the chugging of the .50 caliber as it covered their retreat. He was vaguely aware of the big green vehicle churning up the snow to follow them. In the silence left was only the sound of his own breathing and the steady hum of the engine as it worked to take them away from the horde of undead.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 4:27 am 
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awesomeness

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 3:16 pm 
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nemesys wrote:
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:36 pm 
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Cole stopped the truck and fought it as it slid to a stop. The Hummer follow suit. Ignoring the protests of those in the back of the truck, Cole shouldered open his door and stepped out into the foot deep snow. Struggling to control his breathing, Cole leaned on the side of the bed while Hank, Isaac and Jesse jumped out. Kyle joined them as the big machinegun once more began its sweeping traverse of the road behind them.

“What’s going on?” asked Kyle.

Cole looked back down the road they had traveled and suppressed a shudder. “Where the hell did those things come from?”

Shaking his head, Kyle answered tersely. “I don’t know, but we need to get this on the road and moving before they have a chance to catch up with us.”

Jesse agreed. “Where is not so important right now as how are we going to go around them without going too far out of our way. Does anyone know an alternative route that is not ten miles in the wrong direction?”

Kyle shook his head. “I’m lucky to know that I’m south of Mansfield,” he joked. “That’s why I’m not driving.”

Cole thought about it for a second. “In this weather, I don’ think it will matter how far we go out of the way, it’s going to be crappy no matter because of the road conditions. I think we should stick to the wider roads for the moment and go slow. We’re an hour away in this crap no matter what.”

Indicating Hank and Isaac in the bed of the truck, Kyle made a motion to the two vehicles left. “With the loss of the Toyota, how much trade stuff do we have left?”

Jesse groaned. “I didn’t think about that; all of the trade foods were in the rear of the Toyota to keep it out of the weather. We’re shit out of luck with that.”

“We need to get those other two out of the weather,” mentioned Kyle.

Cole glanced back at where the others sat, staring morosely at the cluttered cargo area of the truck, each lost in private thoughts about their friend.

“We can take one with us if we need too,” decided Cole.

Kyle glanced at the Hummer. “Both can fit in there as long as they don’t mind being cramped up, I suppose. It’s better than being left out in the cold and wind. How much ammo did we burn with that little bit of excitement?”

Cole shrugged and looked over at Jesse who was busily investigating his mag pouches and shaking his head. He looked up at the other two after dropping the magazine that was in his CAR and with an irritated expression on his face, slammed the box back into the well. “Not as much as I should have.”

“We burned through a belt and a half with the fifty,” announced Kyle. “Which means that we have just another two left; not much, depending on the situation, good or bad.”

Gauging the sun over the trees, Cole decided that he’d had enough bad information for one day so far; the death of Mitch and the loss of the Toyota were enough to make him wonder if the trip to get his friend was worth the effort. Shrugging inside his Carhart, Cole nodded to Hank and Isaac to get out of the bed of the truck. They dutifully exited the back of the truck and stood in the icy snow waiting for instruction on what to do next. Leaving Jesse and Kyle to discuss their ammo problems, Cole walked over to the two men.

“You guys okay?”

Hank shook his head. “Dude, we shouldn’t’ve left him like that. He was just like a few feet away from us. Man, I can’t help but see his face when he saw that we were fuckin’ leavin’ him. He was so shocked. I mean, like, we could’ve done more--.”

“What could we have done, Hank?” asked Cole with an edge in his voice. “The Toyota was already stuck, the snow is making movement difficult for us to just keep the things on the road, how were we going to get to him with all that and God Knows how many Zombies between us?”

“I donno, man, but we should’ve tried harder,” pouted Hank. “I just think it was lame to not try.”

Cole waved his hand dismissively at the other. “You’re lucky you got out alive, Hank.” Cole pointed to the Hummer. “Get in there. You’ll be riding with Kyle.”

Isaac cut in as Hank started to stomp through the snow to the vehicle. “Are we going to have enough room for your friend?”

Cutting his eyes to the rear of the truck, Cole answered the best he knew how. “If we have to, we’ll put him in the rear of the truck and cover him with a tarp.” He glanced up at the sky and saw that the birds were hovering in the distance. “We need to get going. Do you know a better way? We’re kind of stuck for directions.”

Isaac glanced around at their surroundings. “I think I do. I grew up in Knox County, but we used to run all these back roads when I was in high school.”

“You’re riding with me then,” said Cole. “Get in the cab. How much ammo did you burn back there?”

“Too much,” admitted Isaac. “I kinda lost it for a second. I was just trying to clear a space for Mitch. It’s kinda funny because after all the shit we’ve been through, you kind of get the impression that certain people are going to make it no matter what, you know?’ asked Isaac as they shuffled to the cab. “Mitch was never a stellar killer, not like Jesse is, or Owen, for sure, but he was steady when it went down. It’s hard to believe that he got caught like that.”

“None of us were paying enough attention to what was going on around us,” said Cole trying to relieve some of the sorrow for the other.

Isaac climbed into the cab of the truck. Cole could see from the expression on Isaac’s face something other than the loss of his friend was wrong with the man. Cole stopped him. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Not a Ghost, man, a Zombie, a familiar one.”

Confused, Cole asked him to clarify.

“Did you pay attention to the Zombies back there?”

Not understanding, Isaacs’s question, Cole came back with a half-assed answer. “You mean that there were a lot of them?”

Shaking his head, Isaac stopped midway in the cab. “I think they were from Mansfield.”

Cole felt a hard knot in the pit of his stomach; it was colder than the air around him, and sent a shiver down his back. “What do you mean?”

Sitting down in the center of the seat, Isaac gave a worried grin. “I think one of those things used to be a friend of mine--.”

Giving a quick look around to be sure that they were not being over heard, Cole leaned into the cab. “What do you mean; you think you recognized one of those monsters?”

“Maybe,” said Isaac nervously. He glanced through the windshield over to where Jesse and Kyle were going over the ammo pouches of the others. “The clothing was his, at least it looked like his and he was wearing a jacket that was like my buddies; it was a school jacket.” Isaac swallowed. “He had the same glasses too. Cole, I shot him myself, I must have missed the kill shot though, it had to be him. Part of his head was rotting away.”

“Where’d you shoot him?” asked Cole, afraid of the answer.

“Ontario,” said Isaac, “when all this started.”

“How the hell’d he get here?”

“I think that those things are following us, Cole. They may not be intelligent, but they know where the meat is. I really think that those things are just following in the direction we go and if we’re not careful, we’re going to lead them right back to the Lodge.”

Cole swallowed the rise of bile at the back of his throat. “Don’t say anything to anyone just yet. Let’s get this part over with.”

He glanced up at the sky. The birds were closer.

“We need to move.”

Calling to Jesse with a low whistle, Cole motioned for him to get in the truck. Jesse said a final word to Kyle and ran back to the truck. They climbed into the cab together and Cole put the Ford in gear lurching forward to take the lead once more. The Hummer growled out a response and a thick cloud of black smoke rose from its stacks as it ground through the snow. Isaac gave some terse directions and Cole repeated them to make sure that he understood them. As they drove, Jesse pulled out several juice boxes from his BOB and passed them out after stabbing the straws in the side. Cole took his and drained the box quickly, not realizing that he was as thirsty as he was. He tossed the box to the floorboard. Jesse spoke from his side while staring out the window.

“I think those things were from the city,” he said to no one.

Cole and Isaac stared at the older man. Neither one of them gave the man that they had been having nearly the same conversation just moments before. Jesse brushed a strand of hair out of his face.

“What makes you say that?” asked Cole carefully.

“How many Zombies do you think are out here in the sticks? I don’t think that there would be that many clustered together like that--,” started Jesse.

Isaac cut in on him. “Bellville is just up the road.”

“Not this road,” disagreed Jesse. “Not only that, but this is the road we took to get to Mansfield the other day. This road was the one we came back on. I think those things are following us, we’re just now seeing them because they are slowed by the snow and road conditions.” Jesse glanced over at Cole and Isaac. “It seems to me that these things are like a wind up toy; you turn the crank and let them go, they go in a line until something bumps them in another direction.”

“If that’s true, than they have already been to where Billy his holed up,” said Cole.

“Maybe,” agreed Isaac. “They might have bypassed them, since they are far enough off the main road.”

“I have an idea,” Jesse said. “If my idea is right, why don’t we double back and see if we can get to the Toyota. If it’s clear, like I think its going to be, then we can get it out of the ditch.”

Isaac shook his head. “I don’t know, Jesse, there just seemed to be hundreds of them. We don’t know how fast they move--.”

“We won’t know until we check.”

“I’m not going to risk the group on a hunch,” decided Cole. “We set out to get Billy and his brother; that’s what we’re going to do. If we can somehow get back to the Toyota in the mean time, than we will.” Cole looked at Jesse. “You said you wanted me to take charge, right?”

Jesse gave the man a half smile. “I did, didn’t I? Well, then get us to your buddy.”

With the final words on the matter spoken, Cole continued in the direction of the road where Billy currently resided. Cole knew that everything from this point on was going to be just a little harder than before. They had all assumed that the Lodge was far enough out of the way that there would be no large threat from the masses of undead in the nearby city and smaller towns. The evidence was to the contrary, which made Cole wonder just how safe it was to be anywhere. Would they be fighting the hordes from the roof tops of the Lodge next?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 6:58 pm 
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More please? :(

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 7:15 pm 
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Yeah, there's more on the way, I've been working both jobs until my notice runs out and then I should have much more time to write after that. I got a little bogged down with Cole and this next part I hope will bring it back around to being a people story like Hannah and Owen.

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