Hannah repost

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Post by doc66 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:04 pm

Morning came to the barn fairly early. Hannah woke to the sounds of the cows outside the field doors. All through the hay, she could see the shapes of some of the others still cocooned in sleeping bags. She could hear voices arguing about something, and after rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and grabbing her rifle, she made her way down to the first floor level of the barn. After some investigation, it was found that the barn had a lower level, kind of a basement that was a large open area for the cows to stay in during inclement weather and be fed. Eddie explained the type of barn they were in was called a “bank” barn, because it was built into the side of a hill. The voices were coming from the lower area. Sore from the day before, Hannah winced as she climbed down the ladder, her muscles protesting as she used them to lever herself down.

Hannah peeked in on the kid in the van on her way by, and saw he was at least breathing easier, but could not tell if he had woken up at any time during the night. Jesse was not nearby, one of the voices sounded like his. She followed the sound to a steep set of stairs and eased down them. When she could see Jesse and Eddie, she stopped and sat on the steps. Jesse, looking tired and worn out, was standing amidst several cows, while Eddie pointed at them and shook his head.

“You don’t understand, they’re creatures of habit, they don’t care about bringing zombies here, they don’t care about staying quiet or any of that; all they care about is getting milked.” Eddie gestured to one of the cows. “Look, she’s engorged, she needs milked. We can milk them, we can shoot them, but they’re not going to just stop coming to the barn as long as they think that we’re here to milk them. You can’t explain that to them.”

Jesse growled in frustration. “There’s a milking shed over there, right?”

“I think that’s what it is,” agreed Eddie, “but, it won’t do a bit of good without power. It’s more than likely got a modern system in it to milk. We’ve got to do these by hand.”

“What I mean is this; we can get them to start goin’ there at least right?”

“Right, I think.” Eddie shrugged and slapped one of the lowing cows on the rump to get it to move away from him. “I mean we can try.”

“If we milk them, what are we going to do with all the milk?”

“Make butter, make cheese. There’s all kind of things we can do if we have the right equipment and ingredients.”

“We’re going to have to find a better way of makin’ butter than that crap we went through last night,” complained Jesse. “Spending an hour shakin’ a mason jar is not my idea of fun.”

“If we want butter, we’d better get used to it,” said Eddie. “Nothing is going to be easy any more.”

“What about cheese?” interjected Hannah, unable to sit on the step and listen any longer without joining in the conversation.

Both men looked over at her. Jesse with a grimace from turning his head and then a smile, Eddie in surprise and then grinning himself. He answered Hannah’s question with another slap at a cow. “It’s pretty easy, really. We kind of do what we did last night, only we don’t bring the milk to a boil. We need lemon juice or vinegar and salt. It makes a curd, separates the crud or the cheese, from the whey, the leftover water of the milk, and then we can strain it through cheese cloth, or a fine strainer, press it in forms to age or just eat it like it is.”

“That it?” interjected Jesse.

“Pretty much.”

“Well, farmboy, get these fuckin’ things out of here and to the milking shed. Hannah and I’ll be there in a second to help you.” He looked over the cows. “Hoe long to milk these bitches?”

Eddie gauged the number of cows in the barn. “Eight cows, they probably milked them for personal use and to trade or sell the milk with neighbors, I don’t know, a couple hours.”

“Couple hours. With three of us, what about if we get a couple more people?”

“Depends on the milker.”

“Hannah, go get Isaac up, get Carolina up. Have Chelsea stand watch for us. If there’s anything weird happenin’ tell her to sing out.” Jesse turned back to Eddie. “Get ‘em movin’, Eddie. You’re now our cow expert.”

Hannah started back up the stairs as the two men started the cows moving. Jesse called to her as she climbed. “Hannah, get our Bug Out Bags, too. Nobody should be movin’ around here without them.”

Stopping, Hannah turned back to Jesse. “We’re going to have to lighten up some of the load if you want us to carry them everywhere.”

“Later,” decided Jesse. “I think we’ll worry about that later. We’ve got to get back into that house. We left some guns of ours in there, and we still need to search it.”

At the mention of going back in the house, Hannah felt her chest constrict. “If you say so.”

“You know we do,” he said. “I went through some of the shit in the Toyota last night and we got pretty shot up in the cargo area. We lost some things.”

Hannah had forgotten about the running fight for a moment. She nodded and continued up the steps to the main floor. Once there, she found Carolina and Isaac dipping bowls of rice from the pot she had boiled last night. They were adding some of the milk and butter along with teaspoons of sugar from a plastic container. Isaac handed Hannah his bowl and grabbed another. Hannah put a spoon full in her mouth as she spoke. The rice had been warmed and the butter and sugar combined nicely with the milk to flavor the bland kernels.

“We’re going to learn to milk cows.”

Isaac rolled his eyes. “I know how. I hate it. That’s why I started college; to get away from farm work.”

Carolina shrugged and spooned another portion of rice into her own mouth. Hannah watched her eat, worrying about the other woman’s silence. Hannah kept eating, finishing quickly. “Where’s Chelsea?”

“She’s standing watch,” said Isaac. “She took a bowl of rice with her.”

“I’ll let her know what’s going on,” Hannah told them, heading for the ladder to the loft. “Go down the stairs and out to the milking shed. Eddie and Jesse are already there. Oh, and be sure to take your BOB’s, Jesse wants us to have them with us all the time.”

Hannah found Chelsea sitting back from the opening of the hay door and looking out over the morning field. She had finished her rice and the bowl was sitting beside her. In her small hands rested her M4 and a bag of magazines. Chelsea looked up at Hannah as she sat beside her.

“Hey, girl,” greeted Hannah.

“Hey.” Chelsea returned her gaze to the field and the road beyond.

“Anything happening?”

“Nope. Good breakfast, I like the rise done that way.”

“You want more?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“We’re going to be going over to the shed to milk the cows,” said Hannah. “Can you watch out okay?”

Chelsea patted her rifle. “I got it.”

Hannah felt a pang of regret at the girls lost childhood. “Okay, then. Well, just shout if you need anything.”

“I will.” Chelsea glanced back at Hannah. “Is that boy going to be okay?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Hannah. “We’re going to try and make sure he is.”

“I know. Are we going to play any games today?”

“What do you want to play?” grinned Hannah, thankful that Chelsea’s childhood was not totally gone.

“I don’t know, I’ll think of something.”

“Okay, well, we’ll be over at the shed.”

Hannah woke Stacy and told her to meet at the shed, then grabbed up Jesse and Eddie’s BOB’s and shouldering them, went to the shed to find Eddie leading the first cows into the milking stalls. He was talking while he did so.

“You can’t force them, they’re stupid, but they don’t put up with getting beat on,” he was telling Jesse and Carolina. Isaac was at the other end, locking down a cow in the rack-like contraption that would keep her from moving around. He was shaking a bucket of feed into a trough. “Make sure they’ve got feed to munch on; it keeps what little brains they have off the fact that you’re underneath them.” He bent beside the cow with a plastic bucket filled with water. “Use this sanitizer to clean the teats, you want to make sure that you get all the shit off of them, otherwise the milk is worthless. Don’t worry about the rest of the cow, just get the teat and the udder.” He demonstrated and then pulled up a stool, setting the plastic bucket aside for a stainless steel bucket that was nearby. “Now we’ve sanitized this bucket, and make sure you do that to all of them. Grab the teat’s in your hand like this; squeeze them form the top of the cow down.” He demonstrated again, squirting milk onto the floor. Eddie squinted at the results, and gave another couple pulls. “Clear the first milk out, it’s worthless as far as what we want it for, check it to be sure there’s no flakes in it or chunks, that means there’s something wrong with the cow, and then squirt it into the pail. Carolina, you want to try?”

Carolina looked uncertainly at the cow and then took Eddies place. She apprehensively grabbed the teats and began to pull. The cow shifted and tried to look behind to see who was pulling. Eddie stopped Carolina and corrected her technique. After several tries, Carolina got a stream going with each pull. Eddie congratulated her and moved to the next cow, watching as Jesse tried. Once he was set, Hannah took her place, cleaning the cow off and trying the milking. It was harder than she had thought, and her forearms tightened with the effort. She grabbed at the top of the teat, squeezing the milk down and was awarded with a stream of milk. Hannah gave a chuckle and continued to milk, the pail accepting the liquid with the satisfying noise of milk against the metal sides.

Milking the cow dry, Hannah looked up to see where Eddie was. He and Isaac had finished their cows, and were releasing them. Picking up her bucket, Hannah tried to gauge how much milk was in the pail. She moved it out of the way of the cows shifting hooves, and placed it on a counter for safe keeping. Eddie appeared and looked in the pail as well.

“If we start milking them regular, we’ll get about eight gallons from each cow,” he told her. “They’re a little on the light side right now because no ones milked them in a while.”

“Will the milk taste funny?” asked Hannah.

“Not so you’ll notice,” said Eddie. “I mean, when was the last time you had fresh milk?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had fresh milk,” pondered Hannah. “It’s always been store bought.”

“Yeah, it’ll taste different. This might be a little bitter, depending on what they’ve been grazing on. We should see about feeding them some of the grain around here, and if we’re going to stay, we need to start looking at the other farms for hay, straw, and feed.”

Looking at the others as they finished up milking, Hannah had to wonder about staying as well. The goal was to get to Mohican Lodge, but then, if they had a secure farm to work….

“We’ll have to see,” said Hannah. Jesse came up to them at that point.

“We done?” he asked.

“Three more to go,” said Eddie.

“Okay, I think me and Carolina can get those,” said Jesse. “I’m still pretty shaky and Carolina doesn’t need to be exposed to the house right now, but we need to get in there and get our guns back, also see what kind of supplies are there.”

Any response was cut off by the shout of Chelsea from the barn. Jesse stopped to listen, but the words were indistinguishable. He raced over and grabbed up his CAR and BOB. Hannah did the same as did Isaac and Eddie. Jesse motioned to Eddie and Carolina.

“You two stay here and finish up. It may be nothing.”

Eddie protested his order. “You just got done saying that you were shaky, let me go.”

Struggling for a moment, Jesse shook his head. “No, I’ll go we need you to finish up the animals; you know what you’re doing. We’ll check out what’s going on, I’m sure it’s nothing.”

He was heading out the door as he said this, with Hannah and Isaac close behind. Hannah took the lead, her feet pounding on the hard surface of the field, and was inside the barn before the rest, then up the stairs, her rifle leading the way.



Hannah peered over the floor boards before continuing up the rest of the stairs. She saw that the doors were still closed, which made her breath a sigh of relief that nothing had gotten in that way. Chelsea was standing with her back to Hannah, and she was holding her rifle at ready, looking at something Hannah could not see from her angle. Hannah felt Jesse and Isaac on the steps behind her and slowly continued up behind her own rifle. She saw the boy they had been rehydrating sitting on the bumper of the van with one arm around the pot that held the rice, the other holding a pistol that someone had left behind in the vehicle. Still wearing only the shorts they had put on him after cleaning him up, he looked like a small boy in the oversized drawers, all skinny legs and arms sticking out of a thin chest. He was alternating between shoveling food into his mouth and telling Chelsea to stay away. He looked scared, confused, and hungry all at the same time. When he saw Hannah, he shifted his pistol over to point at her, trying to cover all the people emerging from the floor at once.

Dropping her rifle so that the barrel pointed at the floor, Hannah held out her support hand, keeping her finger near the trigger should it come to a shooting. She heard something shifting above her and glanced up, seeing a still sleepy Stacy at the edge of the loft, rifle in hand as she covered Chelsea. Hannah wondered where Stacy had been. She turned her attention back to the boy.

“Hey, it’s okay, we’re the ones that helped you out of the bathroom,” said Hannah in a soothing voice. “We want to help you.”

“Stay back,” he ordered.

“It’s all right, I’m Hannah. I’m one of the people who found you.”

“What’d you do to my family?” he demanded, the food forgotten for a moment.

“We didn’t do anything to them.”

“Then where are they?”

“You don’t remember?”

He seemed to be fighting with himself. “I remember waiting for my dad to kill the Zombies in the house.”

“When was that?”

As if he didn’t hear Hannah, the kid began to shake his head. “I don’t know why they let that guy in; he was trouble from the beginning. I knew that my dad would take care of it. He was out in the field.”

“What do you remember?” asked Hannah as Jesse and Isaac came up slowly, each taking up a position to one side of her to provide cover fire should she need it. The boy didn’t answer right away. Hannah put a hand on Chelsea’s shoulder. Chelsea did not take her eyes off the boy, but nodded to Hannah.

“I’m okay.”

“What happened?” asked Hannah.

“I heard noises down here and when I came down, he was eating,” reported the girl. “I said hello and he freaked out and picked up the gun. I called for you then told him to put it down or I was going to shoot him.”

Hannah gave an inward groan. She was going to have to explain to Chelsea that not everything was solved with a bullet. She took a deep breath and looked at the kid. “Okay, just so you know, nobody’s going to shoot you. We didn’t save you to turn around and put a bullet in you, okay? You need to put the gun down so we can talk easier, and nobody get hurt.”

“What happened to my dad?”

Hannah took a step forward. “I don’t think your dad’s alive. There was no one here but you when we got here, and you almost didn’t make it.”

The impact of Hannah’s words took a moment to sink in. She could see from the expression on his face that the kid was struggling with everything that had happened to him over the course of the last several days. She took another step and the kid shook his head. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes. He swallowed, then began to cry. The pistol dropped to his side. Hannah stepped closer to him, pulling the thing from his grasp and tossing it aside to put a comforting arm over his thin shoulders. The boy leaned into her and sobbed. Jesse took Hannah’s rifle while she cradled the kid, sitting on the bumper with him.

Hannah let the boy sob against her chest, unsure of what to do next. Chelsea came up to her and put a hand on Hannah’s shoulder.

“He’ll be okay,” assured Chelsea. “You just got to be nice to him like Freddy was for me.”

Nodding, Hannah let the kid cry. He couldn’t have many tears in him considering the condition they had found him in; most of his wracking sobs seemed to be drying up. “What’s your name?”

“Ted,” he managed to choke out.

“Okay, Ted,” she repeated so that the others knew his name as well. “We’re here for you.”

He pulled away from her and sat huddled against the side of the bed in the van. “I feel sick.”

“It might be trying to eat to soon that did that,” said Hannah. “How long were you in the bathroom?”

“I don’t know.”

“No?”

“It was days. I ran out of water. I couldn’t get through the window to get out. I thought I was going to die.”

“You didn’t,” comforted Hannah. “Now you have to live so you can remember your dad.”

He gave a sobbing laugh. “That sounds like something he would say.” Ted puffed up a moment and tried to deepen his voice to mimic what Hannah assumed was his father. “Got to carry on, kid; that’s the way to honor your mother.” He settled back against the bed. “Now I guess I got to honor both of them?”

“I guess so.”

He looked at her through his red-rimmed eyes. “Everybody’s dead?”

“I don’t know, Ted.”

“There were a bunch of us.”

“There were a bunch inside--,” said Hannah.

“Shit.” He quickly looked at Hannah to gauge her reaction to his swearing. Hannah said nothing and Ted nodded, almost to himself. “I need to lay down, I guess.”

Hannah pointed to the sleeping bag they had put him in. “Take that up to the loft and get some rest.”

Ted stared at her. “I don’t think I can get up there. I could barely hold up that gun.”

She laughed. “Okay, crash here in the van.”

Nodding, Ted crawled back on top of the bad and into the sleeping bag. Hannah walked over to where Jesse and Isaac were standing, watching. Jesse nodded to the van and looked over at Isaac.

“Any more guns in there?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Isaac.

“We should probably check.”

Hannah disagreed. “He’ll be fine. He was scared, confused and did what any of us would have done in his place.”

Jesse glanced at the motionless boy. “Okay. We’ve got a lot of stuff to get done, who is gonna to watch him?”

“I don’t know if we need to,” said Hannah.

“He’s still weak, girl, somebody needs to be here.”

“I’ll watch him,” said Chelsea.

Turning to her, Jesse bent down. “You sure?”

“Sure. I can help him, I know what he’s going through.”

Softly ruffling her hair, Jesse grinned. “You sure you’re only ten?”

Chelsea looked up at Hannah. “He may be older, but for a girl, there’s not much difference in our age.”

Hearing the echoes of her statement to Isaac last night, Hannah let out a barking laugh. Stacy came up to them, having climbed out of the loft.

“What did I miss?” she asked.

“Where the hell you been?” demanded Jesse.

“Hannah woke me up and I must have fallen back asleep,” defended Stacy. “I woke again when I heard Chelsea shout. By the time I got untangled from my sleeping bag, you guys were already here.”

Before Jesse could say anything else, Hannah stepped in. “Well, Sleeping Beauty, that just means you get to go to the shed and help clean up the place from the milking.”

“You mean shovel shit?”

“Yep.”

“I should have stayed in bed,” groused Stacy.

“Well, after you’re done there, you can help us clean out the house.”

Stacy wrinkled her nose. “That’s going to stink. What are we going to do with the bodies?”

“Bury them? Burn them?” Jesse shrugged, still gruff with her for not getting up when she should have. “We’ll have to see what our options are once we’ve explored a little. We’ve got to find a way to make this cheese Eddie had been babblin’ about, too. I guess we’ll need a propane stove or something. When the kid wakes up, we’ll see if we can get some information from him about this place. For now, let’s get the shed finished. Hannah, stay here with Chelsea.”

Hannah watched them exit down the steep steps and then wandered over to where Chelsea sat, looking at Ted.

“You okay, kiddo?”

“I’m good. I’m just thinking about my dad. I miss him.”

Hannah put an arm around the girl. “I miss my dad too.”

They sat in comfortable silence and listened to the steady breathing of their new companion.
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Post by doc66 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:06 pm

They got up the courage to go back into the house after lunch.

With a propane stove that had been sitting near the back door of the house, some of the milk had been pasteurized, and was now separating in a couple of big milk cans they had cleaned up and sanitized. Some of it, the cheese milk, had been left unpasteurized because Eddie said it made better cheese if left alone. What they were going to do with all the pasteurized milk, Hannah could only guess at. Eddie said that all he could remember to make was what he called “easy cheese”, the vinegar or lemon juice separation. He knew that cottage cheese was made somewhat the same way, but wasn’t sure the exact process.

Chelsea had found a chicken’s nest with eggs, and they had been hearing the things cluck off and on during the morning, but had failed to find them in their tentative searches around the yard. Ted had finally woken and told them that the chickens had been left to fend for themselves when they ran out of feed for them a few weeks ago. According to Ted, they needed to look in the field on the other side of the shed and in the fence row there for the nests and eggs. At one time they had about fifty chickens, but fox and coyotes had reduced that number. Carolina was taking care of Ted at the moment, making sure that he did not eat too much food and get sick on his way to recovery.

After some coaxing, Ted had told them that the storage items in the house had been in two places; the basement, which had held most of the supplies because it provided more storage, and the attic, incase they had gotten trapped upstairs. The attic could be reached through a stair hidden behind a closet in the hallway. Hannah didn’t remember seeing the doorway, but she hadn’t been looking for it, either.

The big question was what to do with the bodies.

Jesse found a trencher attachment for the farms tractor and said with some trial and error, he could figure out how to work it, as long as they could safely attach the rig. While they had been discussing this, Ted had wandered over, holding a water bottle that he sipped from and wrapped in a blanket and listened quietly while they discussed the tractor. Ted had finally spoken up.

“It’s only got a couple hours of diesel left,” he said. “You’ll burn that up trying to get it working.”

“So just what do you propose we do, Ted?” asked Jesse carefully.

Ted went pale for a moment and Carolina reached out to steady him. He nodded and squatted on the hay strewn floor. “I can run it.”

“You can?”

“I was running the tractor before I learned to ride a bike,” he said with a small amount of pride. “I can hook up the trencher and anything else you want done.”

“You know why we’re doing this?” asked Jesse cautiously.

Ted nodded and swallowed, taking a sip of water. “I know why.”

“You okay with that?”

The kid took a deep breath and let it out in a heavy sigh that was beyond his years. “I don’t like that we’re going to be putting them all in the same hole. Since I knew them, it just doesn’t seem right to me. But I understand way you are; it’s faster and let’s face it, might be safer.” Ted took another drink. “There’s a place on the other side of the house, in the field beyond where we’ve buried a bunch. We got Zombies that show up across the field, sometimes a shit load of them at once. Dad got lime from some where and we cover them in lime before we burry them.”

“So we bury them there?”

“I guess.”

With that, Jesse told Ted to get some more rest; they then began to plan the cleaning of the house. Isaac, Eddie and Hannah would go into the house for a final sweep of the place, then Jesse and Stacy would come in and help with the beginning disposal of the bodies. There was a smaller, gas powered, tractor they would hook up to a trailer and use it to pull the bodies to the mass grave. Jesse had it parked next to the rear door so that all they had to do was drag the corpses the short distance and load them.

Hannah took adeep breath of fresh air and followed Isaac into the house.

They were all wearing dust filters they had found in the barn in the hope that the thin masks would block some of the smell.

They didn’t not really.

The stench of the decaying bodies was beyond horrible. Over the last couple months, Hannah had smelled death more times than she cared to, and the scent was just as ghastly as it had been the first time. Isaac lead them quickly through the house, clearing those spaces they had already been in and checking closets that were missed in the first pass. Hannah followed with Eddie taking the rear and checking their “six” as Jesse called it, to be sure nothing leaped out from behind something they walked by. Isaac threw open closet doors, and Hannah pointed her carbine at the spaces. From one of the closets, a toddler lurched out, its face drawn back in a parody of a grin as it hissed and snapped at her legs. Hannah was so surprised for a moment that she took a step back from the thing, her eyes focusing for some reason on the footie pajamas with little horses on them. Then she recovered enough to bang out a single round at the things head and the child tumbled to her feet. Hannah kicked it off her boots, feeling the revulsion rise in her throat as the tiny body thumped to one side.

“Oh do you think that one ended up in there?” wondered Isaac as Eddie looked over Hannah’s shoulder at the child.

“Mom put it in there to be safe, and didn’t know it was already bit,” surmised Eddie.

Hannah stepped away from the two men. “It? That was a baby once, somebody’s child.”

“Sure, Hannah, but right now, that’s a fucking Zombie. Or it was, the kid it had been, man that’s dead,” pointed out Eddie.

“I know,” relented Hannah. “I’m sorry. It’s just that this whole place was full of living people and now---. I wonder what the fuck happened?”

“Only Ted knows,” said Isaac. “And we’ll have to wait for him to decide he wants to tell us. Let’s get this done.”

The other two nodded and they cleared the remainder of the upstairs. Hannah had not noticed it on their first go through, but all the rooms contained homemade bunks beds and a double bed, leading them to surmise that each family got a room of their own in the commune-like setting. The cramped spaces were probably not much in the way of privacy, but it was better than trying to protect such a large house alone, should hordes of the undead arrive at the doorstep. They found the hall closet with the attic stairs in it and cleared the junk in front of the door away. Isaac pulled open the door leading to attic stairs while Hannah and Eddie covered the opening with their rifles. There was a blast of hot air from the dark opening, then nothing. Eddie volunteered to go up first. He took a flashlight and shined it up into the space, illuminating the rafters of the old farm house and the dusty stairs. Slinging his own rifle, Eddie freed his pistol and carefully took the stairs up to the attic. Hannah followed and Isaac stayed at the bottom in case they had missed something in their search of the down stairs.

At the top, Hannah saw that they area had been set up for a last stand of sorts. There were two make shift bunk beds with sleeping bags rolled at the foot, a shower curtain hung from the low ceiling and behind it were two blue water barrels, a small bucket that she assumed was to be used a toilet. Piled off to one side, next to a portable propane Coleman stove were boxes of food, canned goods, and a table and chairs. A quick search revealed ammo boxes labeled with the caliber or ammo in each one and a small gun cabinet containing rifles, shotguns and in a pull out drawer, pistols and revolvers. The other boxes held clothing. Two windows at either end of the attic had fans under them with car batteries near the fans, Hannah assumed to keep the attic cool during the hotter parts of the day. A roll up ladder was near one of the windows as well. Looking out of the front window, Hannah could see that it was a short drop to the top of the roof of the porch. It was too bad Ted could not have made it this far.

Finding everything secure, they left the attic and went back down the stairs to the basement door. Stopping at the barrier, Isaac knocked and they listened for noise. There was nothing. Taking as deep a breath as they dared, Isaac motioned for Eddie to open the door. Eh did so and Hannah and Isaac stood back to cover the space, rifles ready to blast anything that might emerge from the darkness. When nothing stirred, Isaac shouldered his rifle and took out a flashlight of his own, unholstering his pistol. He shined the light down, the bean capturing a body at the bottom of the stairs. The thing was in a fair state of decomposition, but had been undead at one point. They could tell this from the lack of blood fluid stains around the body. The things head had been blasted apart. Gingerly, Isaac started down the stairs with Hannah close behind and Eddie bringing up the rear.

At the bottom, they stepped over the body, and swept the cluttered area with their flashlights, picking up several other corpses lying in various places.

“Fucking battle down here,” whispered Eddie.

“I wonder who made it this far?” said Isaac.

Hannah pointed her beam across the distance to a door that was partially open and where the majority of the dead lay. “Let’s go look.”

They passed by shelving that had been stocked with numerous items ranging form clothing to canned goods and boxes of dried goods. Gallon and five gallon containers of oil, vinegar, honey, molasses and other liquids were shelved and labeled with dates. Packed in bin filled with sand were potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables, cabbages and cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash and beets. Garlic was strung in long braids from the ceiling as were hot peppers. There was food here to last several months, maybe long, Hannah could not be sure.

Reaching the door, Isaac rolled aside one of the bodies with his foot. They could see the bullet holes where someone on the other side had been shooting at the undead that gathered there. A couple of the rounds had punctured cans and broken jars beyond, the juices and contents spilling over the shelves to dry in sticky puddles. Isaac whistled as he swung open the door.

It was filled with military ammo boxes, cardboard cases of ammo four gun safes, a long bench along one of the inner walls held hand cranked machinery that Isaac and Eddie both said were for reloading bullets. There was a rocking chair in the middle of the room and in the chair was a body. A hole in the temple was the likely cause of death, but the reason for the hole was just as apparent; teeth marks on the man’s shoulder lay under dried blood. All around the chair were spend casings and empty magazines from the pistol the man still held. There was an envelope in a clear plastic bag tucked into the top pocket of the man’s shirt. Isaac knelt in front of the man, peering at the sunken eyes.

“I think this is Ted’s dad,” he said. Hannah looked over his shoulder. It certainly could have been, but time had distorted the features so Hannah could not be sure. She reached out and took the letter from the pocket, the dried blood falling off the plastic as she opened it to remove the envelope.

“Should I read it?” she asked.

Isaac stood. “Hang on, let’s clear the basement first.”

Hannah put the letter on the loading bench and they quickly went through the basement, finding nothing left undead. The basement was full of foodstuff, clothing, black barrels that were labeled as kerosene and blue barrels that were water. Down here as well, there were layers of bunk beds that had been slept in. It looked like they had housed at least two dozen people. On seeing all the beds, both Isaac and Eddie had gotten pale and quiet. Hannah asked them what was wrong.

“It’s like the place where we went right after all this shit started, where we met up with Bill.” Isaac suppressed a shudder. “It went down the same way, somebody got bit, managed to hide it and turned. I’ll bet that’s what happened here.”

“Let’s finish this up,” decided Hannah, not sure if he wanted to talk about it any more or just leave it lie. Isaac agreed and they trooped back into the gunroom.

While Isaac and Eddie found a tarp, Hannah opened the letter and read the blood smeared page.





Teddy,

Well, I can’t says that everythings okay like I usually do, this is bad an I think were all done. Very done. I told Ben not to let that fuck,( sorry kid, but why not cuss now?) in here with us. I didn’t trust him and nether did you. I think you’re safe. I told you to run, and you did, sorry I couldn’t get to you but their was too many of them between us. Hope you made the attic like we planned that one time. I’m rambling, I know. I got bite and it sure as hell hurts like a sonof a bitch. I’m done in. I got all those things that was down here. Used the Browning, I guess if you make it, its yours now. That thing was always a shooter. More bullshit talk sorry. I’m pretty spaced.

Remember your mom, and remember me. I remember how I met your mom; we were in class at college. I was never a good student, always a farmer, I guess. My learning was in the fields and woods. Books were pretty good, but never my thing. Anyway, I remember seeing her in class, sitting in the back by that big fuck, whats his name. mom would remember. God she was a beauty, all that long hair and those dark eyes. little tiny thing she that she was, made her all the more special. wanted to protect her from the moment I saw her. I guess I thought I didn’t have a chance with her but she had other ideas. She asked me out. Thank God for the womens libbers on that one. Took me three years, but I asked her to marry me finally. I was done with school by then. Never did graduate you know. I hadhoped you’d do a little better. Anyway, we got hitched up and I never looked back not once. Mom had a hard time getting pregnant but you came along and we was sure blessed. You were her star.

Remember the time you fell and broke your foot? She was sure made at me for letting you play in the loft.

Remember when you drove the car into the ditch? I was mad at you that time! Eleven and thinking you were Dale Jr. took me an hour to get it out with the tractor. The dents you put in there and the paint was fucked. I made you wash that thing twice a week for a month soild, remember? I should have beat your ass, but I thinkthe washing worked. That was your mom too. As far as I know you never got intothe car without permission again.you sure were her heart.

I’m getting pretty dizzy.

I just want you to know that my last thoughts will be of you and your mom.

I love you kid, even though I never told you much.

Your mom loved you too.

The Browings yours, you know where the rest of the stuff is, ilove you

Bury me with that stupid dog by the cherry tree if you can.

Love Dad



ps If someone else reads this… hell I don’t know. Bury me with Teddy. The cherry trees in the back yard. You can have the rest of this shit.



Ilove you teddy.




Hannah folded the letter and wiped the tears from her eyes. Isaac and Eddie had stopped wrapping the body of Ted’s father to listen. They were unabashedly crying as well.

“I hate this shit,” said Eddie.

Isaac wiped his eyes and nodded to the letter. “Keep it safe, we need to find the cherry tree he’s talking about.”

Hannah put the letter in her jacket pocket and they continued to wrap the body of Ted’s father in silence. Hannah could not help but think of all the people she had seen die over the last month. She hated all of them, and she hated that she lived. She feared death, but if she were dead, at least she wouldn’t have to see the suffering of people she cared about. Hannah followed Isaac and Eddie as they carried the body up the stairs and into the sunlight.
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Post by Tetra Grammaton Cleric » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:36 pm

The visuals your writing evokes are so freakin' crystal Doc.

Awesome.

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Post by nemesys » Fri Nov 16, 2007 11:14 am

awesome thanks for reposting this bud
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:34 pm

The day was sunny and warm, which made the interior of the house all the more uncomfortable, even though she was not wearing her fighting gear. She and Stacy were spreading the bed sheet out to accept yet another of the corpses from their battle while Eddie and Isaac carried one that had already been wrapped up outside to the waiting tractor and trailer. Thankfully, this one was a small adult, and the two of them had no problem rolling it onto the sheet and folding the edges over the rapidly decaying body. For some reason no one present could explain, Zombies seemed to decay very fast once they were put out of commission, almost as if whatever had held them in check was now allowing the dead cells to catch up with where they should have been on dying the first time around.

Both Hannah and Stacy had their hair up and under ball caps, and the sweat escaped from the brim of the hats to roll down the side of her head. Hannah resisted the urge to wipe the stream of salty liquid with her rubber encased wrist. In addition to the ball caps, they wore rubber gloves, rubber boots from the milking barn and aprons to keep the worst of the putrefying flesh off them. They wore the paper masks as well with Bag Balm from the milking shed under their nostrils to fight what they could of the stench. Everyone was agreeing that the house was going to be uninhabitable. Once the body was in the sheet, they secured the thing with a wrap of duct tape at each end, then moved to the next, nearest body.

“How many is this?’ asked Stacy as they stood over the man.

Hannah shrugged. “I stopped counting at seven.”

Gazing critically at the gear the man wore, Stacy toed the dead males shoulder. “You think that holster and shit’s any good?”

“Its nylon, we should be able to clean it up.”

They had been removing any weapons and related items from each body as they encountered the gear. Leather, unless it was basically untouched, was tossed after any firearms, knives or magazines were removed. Nylon, if not saturated, was kept. Nylon could be soaked in detergent and bleached to kill any microbes that might exist in the fabric. They were also salvaging the weapons that had been left on the floor of the house as they went, adding them to their growing stockpile. It was Carolina and Chelsea’s job to separate the metal items, soak the belts and whatnot, then unload the magazines, strip them and clean them up. They were doing so from the comfort of the loft where they were keeping watch on the road and fields around. Hannah could hear the tractor chug in the distance as it dug the mass grave. Ted’s father had been laid in his grave by the cherry tree, but not covered; they were waiting until all was finished before having his funeral.

Isaac and Eddie returned.

“You’re slacking,” said Isaac.

“We’re contemplating the finer art of body rolling to get this belt off this guy,” retorted Hannah.

“Ah,” replied Isaac and came over to look at the man. “He’s a big one.”

“I’ll bet he snuck food in the middle of the night.”

“Didn’t miss too many meals.”

“Nope.” Hannah bent and unbuckled the belt. “Stacy, get the sheet ready.”

“King sized?” quired Stacy, holding up a colorful example.

“At least.” Directing Isaac to get at the man’s shoulders while Stacy lay the sheet next to the man’s body, Hannah took his hips and stepped on the gun belt to keep it from moving when they rolled the man. “On the count of three--.”

They pushed at the man at the specified moment and the body made wet sounds as it moved up on its shoulders and hips. A loud noise emitted from the body when the gasses trapped inside rushed to the nearest opening. Hannah turned her head, trying to escape the stench, and Isaac fought back a gag. Stacy pulled at the body as they pushed and the man tumbled onto the sheet with an involuntary groan.

“Jesus,” said Isaac, standing away from the man. Hannah pulled the gun belt free and tossed it in the box.

“Try doing that for all of them.”

“No thanks.”

Eddie, who had been watching, shook his head, his face a little green. “How’d you girls end up with this shit again?”

“Jesse wanted to learn the tractor,” groused Stacy.

“And you big strong boys were volunteered to carry the bodies since Stacy and I are helpless women,” finished Hannah.

“That Jesse, always skating on the hard stuff,” said Eddie. He nodded to the wrapped body. “Grab an end.”

Isaac did so and they lugged the thing outside. Hannah and Stacy repeated the process of covering the big man, then moved on. They finished the upstairs and then trooped down into the clear air, stripping off the gloves after washing them off in a bucket of bleach water. They removed the masks, and Stacy laughed on seeing Hannah.

“Looks like you’ve been bowing your nose in there,” she declared.

Hannah grinned and pointed to Stacy’s own proboscis. “Fine one to talk, you. You’ve got it all over your cheek. Is the Bag Balm supposed to be green?”

Looking horrified, Stacy quickly wiped a bit off her face. “It is not,” she said, check to be sure.

Laughing Hannah grabbed a towel and tossed it to the dark haired woman. They both cleaned up as Isaac and Eddie continued to carry bodies out.

“Nasty shit,” muttered Stacy, taking off the apron. “I’m going to throw these clothes away. The smell will never come out of them.”

“It’s been so long since I’ve had a real shower of bath, I’m not sure I’d know the difference.”

“We’d notice,” came the grunting interjection of Isaac as he and Eddie put the last body on the pile in the trailer. “We make it a point to notice.”

“As nice as that is,” said Stacy. “You’re going to have to try a lot harder than that.”

“It was an observation is all.”

“Whatever.”

Hannah laughed at the exchange, remembering that the other three had been friends since before the plague had hit the earth. Eddie and Stacy had even been lovers, once. Hannah frowned in sadness at the thought of them still being together; she knew no one from before the plague. As far as she knew, all of her friends were dead. More than likely, none of them were even buried. Shaking those thoughts away from her mind, Hannah motioned to the trailer.

“Well, you big boys got this handled on the other end?”

“What, you don’t want to bid them goodbye?” quipped Eddie. “After all that you guys have been through together, typical women.”

“Its hell to be wanted, Eddie,” returned Stacy. “It’s a burden that I do not bear lightly.”

“You’re so stuck on yourself,” muttered Eddie, climbing up onto the tractor.

“No, you’re so stuck on me,” said Stacy, turning her back on him and walking toward the barn.

Hannah and Isaac were left standing while Eddie fired up the tractor to drown out Stacy’s response.

“I’m going with him,” said Isaac as the tractor started to move.

Hannah watched him climb up onto the fender of the tractor and the thing pulled out, headed toward the far field. Not quite sure what to do, Hannah followed Stacy to the barn. They entered through the man door, the sound of the tractor fading as the vehicle rumbled to the other side of the house.

“Hey, Stacy,” called Hannah. “What was all that about?”

“All what?”

“Com’on, that little deal with Eddie?”

Stacy tossed her hair. “It was Eddie being an asshole.”

“What are you talking about?”

“His little comment about women, just like him.”

Hannah struggled to make the connection in the comments. “Um, he was trying to make a joke.”

“Whatever. He was being a jerk, trying to point out that I dumped him.”

“That’s quite a leap to that,” said Hannah.

“Only because you were standing on the outside.”

“Sure, Stacy, whatever. I’m going to change out of these nasty clothes.”

Stacy nodded her head and they went to grab something that was less odiferous. Both women went to the stall that had been set up for privacy and Hannah went in first to shed the clothing while Stacy waited and talked from the other side of the curtain. Her conversation was about Eddies attempts to reconcile with her, remarks that Hannah half listened to. There was a tub there full of water, and Hannah used it to wash off, even though it was cold. She towel dried and slipped into jeans and a t shirt, telling Stacy she was almost finished. Stacy came in as she was finishing, stripping off her clothes as well.

“It’s not like he hasn’t tried to make up to me or anything,” said Stacy, tossing her clothing on the floor. “He just seems to think that a little ‘sorry’ will make everything okay and he can climb back in bed with me.”

“You’ve made it clear that there’s no jumping in bed?” asked Hannah, sitting on a bench that had been placed in the stall.

“Crystal clear.” Stacy began to rinse off. “I mean, I don’t like him anymore. I’m not even sure that I even care about him as other than a human being, and that’s only because there’s so few of us left.”

“That’s pretty definite,” agreed Hannah.

“I think so.”

“So what are you going to do?”

Stacy dried off and pulled on a shirt. “I’m going to hope that there’s other women where ever we get to take the pressure off me.”

Hannah slipped on her boots and picked up her gunbelt and BOB. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Tell me that this will all end and we can be normal again,” said Stacy, glancing at the guns in Hannah’s hands.

“I can’t do that.”

“I know.”

The sound of the tractors came to them from the yard.

“I guess its funeral time,” sighed Stacy.

“Yeah, get your shit so Jesse doesn’t have a cow.”

Stacy bent to pick up her gear. “What about Jesse?”

“What about him?” asked Hannah, afraid of what Stacy was driving toward.

“You and Jesse ever--?”

“No,” protested Hannah, remembering the first time she’d met him and her reaction to the man. Although she’d mellowed about Jesse and his some times abrasive attitude, she had never thought about sleeping with the man. “He’s okay for a big brother-type. But no.”

“Too old for you?” teased Stacy.

“I—I guess. I don’t know. I know when I first met him I hated him.”

Stacy cocked her head and gave Hannah a curious smile. “Why?”

“Because when we first met, he made me abandon Chelsea.” Hannah held up a hand to stay anything Stacy might say. “It was for the better, I know that now, but at the time, this had all just happened, and well, I was a different person. I thought that we should have gone rushing in; something that would have gotten us all killed. We got, he got Chelsea later, I covered him with my rifle, but I kind of had a hard on about him after that for a while.”

“You two seem so, comfortable with each other now,” mentioned Stacy.

“Only because I mellowed out,” admitted Hannah.

The tractors shut down outside the door. They heard Jesse call to them and Carolina and Chelsea scramble down from the loft. Hannah nodded in the direction of his voice. “Com’on. Let’s get this over with.”

They filed outside and trooped over to the cherry tree, all of them pretty quiet about the coming event. Hannah was surprised to see Ted standing at the grave side with a guitar in his hands. He was softly strumming the strings, his fingers moving up and down the neck. Hannah smiled at the sound of the music; it had been so long since she had heard music that the sweet sounds Ted was sending out on the air lifted her heart despite the reason they were gathered. Jesse nodded to Hannah, who took up a place beside him. He gave her a quick hug and Hannah felt a little guilty for talking about him with Stacy. Chelsea inserted herself between them, her M4 carbine grounding between her feet, making Hannah wish for a different childhood for the girl yet again.

Ted brought the music to a stop just as Hannah recognized the tune as being a John Prine song called “Some Humans Ain’t Human”. Her own father had been a big Prine fan, and she had grown up on “Dear Abby” and “Quite Man”. The memory brought a tear to her eyes which she quickly wiped away.

Clearing his throat, Ted looked at the people standing with him. Ted, still weak and unsteady on his feet, seemed to be hiding behind the guitar. He reminded Hannah a little of the picture she had seen of the young man who was supposed to be Billy the Kid, kind of lost inside the clothing he wore, in Ted’s case, the Browning pistol hanging in a holster at his side, with the guitar taking the place of the rifle Billy had held.

“Well, I guess I should thank everybody here,” started Ted. “I’d be dead now, I guess, if it weren’t for you. Though in some ways, I kinda wish you’d have left me. It’s tough to have to do this. I always thought me and my dad would have another few years to go.” Ted cleared his throat as he struggled with his speech. “My dad was a good man, he was a farmer, he was a husband even after my mom was killed by those things.” Ted gave a laugh to himself. “He only beat me when I needed it and always felt like shit after. He taught me to play the guitar. Dad told me that there was no such thing as bad music, only bad musicians and crappy lyrics. He taught me to shoot, he taught me to drive after I crashed his car,” Hannah and Isaac chuckled at that, remembering the letter; “he cared about me and my mom and what happened to us. Anything I know about being a man I got from my dad. To me he was an example that was better than anything in the movies or on TV. Those guys didn’t know what a dad was, or how they were supposed to act when put up against my dad.

“When all this started he got the neighbors together and kept it together until about a week ago, when one of them let in a man who was walking down the road. Even though it was my dad’s place, he got voted down on keeping the guy here.” Ted shrugged. “You saw what happened. Anyway, he wanted so much for me, but all I have now is his memory. I don’t’ have much else to say about him. I loved him.”

Watching as the tears fell down his face, Hannah wanted to reach out to the kid, but was held in check by her inability to know exactly what to do for him.

“Now’s the time I guess our pastor would pray, but I never much got into the whole church thing,” said Ted. “I suppose that everyone needs to pray or what ever one their own. So while I do this last thing for him, pray or what ever.” Picking up the guitar, Ted nodded to Jesse and the other two men, who picked up shovels that she had not seen before. Ted began to play a tune on the guitar.

“My dad was a weird guy, he said that he wanted this played at his funeral, I guess this it,” Ted swallowed. “If you know this one, sing with me—please.”

Hannah began to laugh sadly as Ted began to sing…

“If I ever leave this world alive….”

Isaac scooped up a shovel of dirt and tossed it, singing along between tears. Chelsea suddenly let go of Hannah and darted off toward the barn. Hannah suspected that the funeral was too much for the little girl who had not been able to close that chapter in her own life. She started to go after Chelsea, but Jesse stopped her.

“Let her be,” he said, his own expression one of loss and depression. “We’ll go to her after this is done.”

Nodding, Hannah watched as the little girl swung open the door and disappeared inside. Ted brought the song to a close and tossed the guitar pick on top of the dirt covering his father. He bowed his head and broke down. Carolina tried to hug him, but Ted pulled away and followed Chelsea’s path away from them. Stacy came up and put an arm around Hannah.

“Seems we’ve all got a lot of folks to bury still,” she said.

“What do you mean?” asked Hannah from behind her tears.

“I guess Ted’s dad represents a lot of people for all of us,” she answered through her own tears.

Thinking about her family and friends, Hannah could only agree. “Maybe we should all toss something in there.”

Stacy pulled free a photograph from her BOB that was creased and bent at the corners. She showed it to Hannah. “Mom and Dad, sis, little brother.”

The photo fluttered down into the hole. Hannah freed her diary and tossed it after. “Everybody’s pretty much in there.”

Jesse overheard their conversation and he took off a necklace, throwing it in. “My ex-wife gave that to me.”

Isaac had only a wallet with his ID and some other pictures in it. He took out the pictures and tossed them in one by one. “I’ve got a group photo in my bag,” he said as they watched.

Eddie also tossed a picture. Carolina had a folded piece of paper she said was the first love letter Mark had written her. She kissed it and threw it in.

They watched as each person tossed a shovelful of dirt on the items.

As the grave was filled, Hannah felt a sense of release. She smiled softly at Stacy and gave the other woman a hug.

“That was a good idea.”

“It was, wasn’t it?”

They started back to the barn in the darkening evening. Chelsea suddenly burst out of the door and shouted to them.

“You need to get in here now!”

Jesse stopped the girl as she ran up to them. “What’s going on?”

“Bad things,” said Chelsea. “You need to see it.”

Glancing with concern at the others, Jesse let the little girl drag him to the barn door. Hannah and the rest followed, wondering what could have made the girl so upset.
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:35 pm

They followed Chelsea up to the loft and she practically dragged Jesse to the loft door and pointed. Jesse searched the horizon and then stiffened. Hannah followed the direction the girl’s finger indicated and heard a small groan escape her lips. Coming across the distant field staggered the undead. Hannah could see that several of them had gotten hung up in the barb wire fencing, but others had either climbed over the flimsy barrier, or had fallen across the top strands and were continuing toward the farm. Making a quick count, Hannah could see a dozen or more that had made it over the fence, with more coming up behind. Carolina was lying with her head in her hands and quietly crying.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” was all Eddie could say over and over.

Jesse turned away from the scene and looked at the crew that had gathered behind him. “That’s why we’ve been keepin’ watch.”

“Yeah, but what do we do about it?” asked Stacy.

“Kill them,” said Isaac, picking up his rifle. “What else?”

Jesse nodded. “That’s it, we take the fight to them.”

“How?” asked Eddie.

Pointing to the field, Jesse began to outline his plan. “They were drawn here by either gunfire or the tractor, so what I say we do is take the Toyota out there with the Expedition as back up since they both are quieter than the tractor and with Hannah’s silenced rifle, we take out as many as we can.”

“My dad had a silenced MP5,” said Ted from the back of the crowd.

“I’d ask where he got it, but right now I don’t give a fuck,” said Jesse. “Where is it?”

“In the gun room, he had it hidden from the rest until we really needed it.”

“Mags for it?”

“Three,” said Ted.

With a nod, Jesse continued to speak. “We need two people to load the mags for our shooters—Hannah you going to be a shooter?”

Giving Jesse a shrug, Hannah decided why not?

“Good, anyone but me know how to use the MP5?” asked Jesse. When no one else volunteered, Jesse sighed. “Drivers, Isaac and Stacy. You will be loading too. The rest of you get our shit into the house. It’s more defendable than the barn, and all the shit is all ready inside. We’ll deal with the smell if we have to.”

Eddie stopped Jesse. “If we stay in the barn, we’ll have vehicles we can use to drive out of here.”

“I don’t think that the doors will hold,” pointed out Jesse.

“I don’t want to be trapped in the house, either,” said Eddie.

“Do you want to just leave?” asked Jesse.

“My dad had planned to park the Expedition against the house. The bedroom window on the first floor was at the same level as the windows in the truck,” informed Ted.

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” said Jesse.

“What about the van?”

Sighing, Jesse waved his arms at Eddie. “Pick a God damn window and park the fuckin’ thing. We’ve got to get moving.” To Ted he said; “Let’s get that MP5.”

Hannah looked over at Stacy. “You want to drive me?”

“I’m there, girlfriend.”

Hannah climbed down the ladder to the Toyota. Still inside was her 10/22. Hannah freed it and the magazines. Chelsea came up to her.

“What do we do about Carolina, she’s not moving.”

“Tell her to get her worthless ass moving,” snapped Stacy. “Tell her I said so.”

Chelsea stared at Stacy. “You sure?”

“Yeah, tell her just that.”

“Okay,” Chelsea climbed back up the ladder. Jesse and Ted hurried by with Isaac in tow.

“Meet us at the Expedition in case we need to jump it,” ordered Jesse.

Stacy saluted him before climbing into the driver’s seat. Hannah arranged her magazines within reach and also placed her other weapons nearby in case she needed them. Stacy wedged her own rifle between the seat and the door. Hannah put her bag of .22 shells between them.

“You ever loaded one of these?” asked Hannah.

“I never shot a gun until all this shit started,” admitted Stacy.

Hannah showed Stacy how to load the rifle magazines. They then pulled out of the barn and saw Jesse exiting the house with the MP5 in hand. To Hannah it looked like one of the machineguns that she had seen in SWAT movies. She said this to Stacy who was staring at it as well.

“I think it is,” said Stacy.

They followed Jesse and the Expedition through the yard to the gate that led to the field where the undead were closing in on the house. Isaac pulled the truck through and then out into the field. The Zombies changed course at the sight of the truck moving toward them. Stacy hit the brakes moments after Isaac and Hannah got out of the Toyota at the same moment as Jesse. He point to the closest ones.

“Let’s take them out and we’ll move away when they’re down.”

Nodding, Hannah lay the 10/22 across the hood of the Toyota and sighted on the first of the Zombies. The little rifle made a spitting noise and she saw the hit through the scope. The round was low and right. Hannah sighed out a breath to calm down and sighted again. The rifle made its noise again, and the thing dropped. She adjusted to another, only to see it fall from a larger hole than what her rifle would make. Jesse grinned at her when she looked at him.

“You take the ones on the left,” he told her.

Hannah focused on those he had indicated and began to shoot at the Ghouls. They fell one after another, not every one a single shot, but she felt pretty confident and began to shoot at the longer targets just as the magazine ran dry. Hannah pulled it free and tossed it inside the Toyota to Stacy, rocking another mag into the well. Just as she charged the rifle, Jesse slapped the top of the Expeditions hood.

“Let’s move.”

Hannah ran around the door and they followed the big Ford to a new shooting spot, Hannah loading the spent mag while they moved and then tossed it back to Stacy. Once more, Hannah set up over the hood, and began to shoot at the Zombies that tried to follow. Through the scope, she could see that these had been exposed to the elements for some time, the flesh was dark and leathery, the skin pulled taught over bone and the undead’s eyes were black, deflated orbs in the sockets, those that still had eyes. Clothing had been torn off, shredded by who only knew what, and that which remained was faded from exposure. Many of the things had hair that was stiff and jutting from patches on the head, making them look like radiation victims. None of the holes that the .22 was putting in them bled, or even oozed any liquid. Hannah wondered how the bodies could continue to function with no fluid to keep the muscle defined. Indeed, many of the beasts were not much more than skin and bones, and still they managed to move with a single minded determinedness that made Hannah fear for the remainder of the human race.

Jesse slapped the hood again as Hannah switched magazines. She repeated her run and swapped mags with Stacy.

“Hannah,” breathed Stacy.

“Yeah?”
“They’re not getting any fewer of them.”

“What?” asked Hannah, shaking herself out of her shooting fog.

Stacy motioned out at the field. “The Zombies, they aren’t stopping.”

Looking out at the field, Hannah saw what she meant. Even those she and Jesse had probably shot at least forty of the things, if not more, there still seemed to be that many left. Hannah bailed out as soon as they stopped and ran up to where Jesse was about to start shooting.

“Jesse,” said Hannah, distracting him from his shooting.

“What?”

“There’s more than we’ve been shooting.”

“So shoot them too,” he growled.

“No, look,” she forced him to look over the hood at the things that were forcing the fence. “Look. They aren’t getting any less. We’re not thinning them out.”

Jesse paused to see what Hannah was talking about. “Fuck. Where are they coming from?”

Hannah shook her head. “What’s that way?”

After thinking for a moment, Hannah saw Jesse’s face go slack. “Son-of-a-bitch. Loudonville.”

“The whole God damn town?”

“I think so,” admitted Jesse.

“We’re trying to shoot five thousand Zombies?”

“I doubt that many, but who knows.”

“Why are they just now getting here?” asked Hannah.

“They had to walk, dead, fifteen-twenty miles,” decided Jesse.

“What are we going to do?”

Gauging the distance to the house, Jesse shrugged, suddenly looking defeated. “How long before they reach the house, you think?”

“Half and hour?” guessed Hannah.

“Then let’s load as much shit as we can in a half an hour.”

“Are we going to find a safe place?” asked Hannah.

“Fuck if I know.” He pushed her to the Toyota and got into the Expedition with Isaac.

Climbing into the Toyota, Hannah put the rifle on the floor.

“What?” asked Stacy.

“We’re leaving.”

“What about the farm?”

“What about it?” asked Hannah. “We can’t defend it against a thousand Zombies. The house won’t hold and even with what’s there, we’d be trapped.”

“Where the hell are we going to go?” demanded Stacy.

“I go no fucking clue, Stacy,” replied Hannah as the woman drove them back to the house.

“I thought this place might be it.”

“Yeah.”

They pulled up to the house and Jesse leapt out and began to shout orders at Eddie and Carolina to start loading everything they could into the van. Eddie began to shout back at Jesse.

“What the fuck for?”

“There’s no time to argue, Eddie, just do it,” said Isaac.

Eddie rounded on Isaac. “What the fuck dude? All of a sudden this guy is like the Supreme Commander? What the hell is going on that we have to give all this up?”

“There’s like a thousand Zombies headed this way, Eddie,” shouted Isaac back. “We can’t hold this place. The flimsy doors, the low windows, we’d be fucked. Just grab shit and load it up.”

“Where in the hell did a thousand Zombies come from?” demanded Eddie. “Thin air?”

“Loudonville,” said Ted.

Spinning to face the kid, Eddie glared at him. “What?”

“Loudonville. Everybody’s dead there. No one lived. We went there once, and it was like watching a bunch of ants roam around, they were every place.”

Looking over at Jesse, Eddie gave a sarcastic laugh. “Oh, and we were just going to drive through there on our way to the lodge? How the fuck do you know that they aren’t fucking already at the lodge too?”

“I don’t, Eddie,” admitted Jesse. “But it’s someplace. We’ve got to try to go someplace.”

“Eddie, please, shut up,” cut in Stacy. “We don’t have much time.”

“Of course, take his side.”

“I’m trying to get you to stop being an asshole and get moving so we can live.”

Isaac pushed Eddie toward the door of the house. He resisted for a brief moment and Hannah thought they were going to fight, then Eddie relented and went inside. Jesse motioned to Hannah.

“You and Stacy keep an eye on them, we never unloaded the Toyota, so if you have to run, just go.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll follow with Chelsea in the Expedition. We’ll manage.”

Hannah nodded and told Stacy to get back in the Land Cruiser. She did after a frown at Jesse’s back as he entered the house.

“What’s up?”

“Jesse wants us to keep an eye on the Zombies. If they get to close, we’re supposed to warn them and then leave.”

“What about the rest?”

“Stacy, just do this,” replied Hannah.

Getting back into the 4x4, the women eased around the house and to the edge of the field. The things had been wandering aimlessly in the general direction of the house, but with the TLC’s appearance, they seemed to find their focus.

“That might have been stupid,” muttered Stacy as she began to put it in gear to leave.

Stopping her, Hannah opened the door. “Just stay here so we don’t attract any more attention.”

“Like that’s possible,” said Stacy as Hannah stood in the V of the door and cab and began to shoot at the closest of the undead. Stacy started to load the empty magazine. Hannah could tell that the silencer was beginning to shoot itself out, but kept on picking targets to try and give the other a chance at gathering as much food and gear as they could. The vent holes in the tube were bleeding gray smoke that was whisked away by a slight breeze. Hannah swapped out mags for the third time since they had stopped and began shooting again. The report of the .22 was now loud enough that she could feel the concussion against her ears. Hannah fired the last of the magazine to a full report. She ducked back into the truck.

“How long has it been?”

Stacy shrugged.

“I guess we need to back away. I can’t shoot any more quietly without repacking my barrel and we don’t have time for that.”

“How long will that fence hold them?” wondered Stacy.

“Got no clue,” said Hannah for what seemed the third time in as many minutes. They watched the Zombies reach the fence line then held their collective breath as the wire began to stretch. A ghoul fell over the wire and struggled to its feet, moving off in a wrong direction. “Let’s go and warn the others.”

Stacy put the Toyota in gear and they backed quickly to the house as more of the undead began to tumble over the barrier.
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:36 pm

As soon as the Toyota came to a dust raising stop, Hannah jumped out of the vehicle and ran up the short set of steps into the house. Inside, Jesse was directing the others in the gathering of goods to be loaded into the vehicles. He was standing next to a large pile of ammo boxes, cases of military-style food, boxes of canned and dry goods. On seeing, Hannah, Jesse came over to her and asked her how much time they had. Shaking her head, Hannah indicated they had almost none.

“I thought you’d be loading stuff by now,” said Hannah. “I took out as many as I could to try and give you more time.”

“We had to haul it up the stairs,” he told her. “You just wouldn’t believe the stuff that’s down there.”

“Jesus, Jesse,” exclaimed Hannah, “Just grab some food and ammo and lets get the fuck out of here!”

Instead of saying anything, Jesse loaded up her arms with two cases of MRE’s and pushed her out the door. Hannah stumbled to the Toyota and tossed the boxes into the back seat through the space where the window should have been. She was swearing repeatedly under her breath as she did so.

“What’s up?” asked Stacy.

“Stupid men, that’s what,” replied Hannah. “Get the truck turned around and get ready to move.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to grab more shit before it’s too late.”

Hannah rushed back into the house, this time carrying her AR with her. She grabbed another box of the MRE’s and also an ammo box. Jesse was yelling down the stairs at the rest of the crew to get up stairs. Hannah tucked the heavy ammo box under her arm and grabbed another, not paying attention to what she was picking up. Outside, she heard a gunshot. Swearing loudly this time, Hannah directed her tirade at Jesse.

“Come on, let’s get going,” she hollered over her shoulder as she raced to the Toyota. Stacy was staring through the windshield at the driveway. Hannah glanced up the gravel drive to where Stacy was looking and stopped in her tracks at what she was seeing. A convoy of vehicles was coming down the long drive toward them. Hannah recognized the lead vehicle as being the truck that had followed them from Trout Drive. Throwing the boxes and ammo into the Toyota, Hannah, swept the AR off her shoulder as a puff of smoke erupted from the bed of the truck. The shot was not directed at the house, but rather at the field beside the house where the hundreds of undead currently lurched at a steady pace that would have made a sadistic general proud. Behind the truck were about five more vehicles, ranging from trucks to big SUV’s. Gunshot poured out of the line like a staccato roll of thunder.

Jesse was coming up beside Hannah carrying several cases of food and ammo. He stared at the vehicles for a long second and then dumped the items into the Expedition where Chelsea was scrambling to toss them into the rear cargo area.

“One more trip,” muttered Jesse, as the others fell out of the house with more boxes and ammo. Hannah could see that several of them were also loaded down with more AR’s, AK’s and shotguns. These were unceremoniously dumped into the van and they hot footed back to the house. Stacy shouted to Hannah and pointed at the corner of the house. Hannah saw a ghoul stagger around the side of the house, seemingly focus its milky eyes on the Toyota and groan. It was dressed as a business woman, but the skirt had seen better days, hanging in shreds around the pale lags. Its blouse was torn and stained black. One breast had been mauled and on it flies hovered and landed in the grey flesh. Taking a deep breath, Hannah, sighted on the things head and squeezed the trigger. The head expanded slightly and the beast fell to the ground.

Another took its place. This one had a pair of jeans on and work boots. The upper body had been torn into and now all that held it up was the spine and decaying back muscle. All of its internal organs were gone. The dead man’s face was intact and unblemished. Hannah sighted on the once handsome face, pulling the trigger twice. It joined the woman on the lawn. Three more took their place; Hannah fired a quick dozen rounds into the collected undead, chewing up shoulders and faces as the bullets impacted into the staggering fiends. They fell only to be replaced.

While she fired, Hannah walked to the Toyota. Stacy had her own rifle out and was slowly shooting at the undead that were beginning to swarm at them from the field. Jesse and the others were emptying from the house, dumping goods into the vehicles as the came. Eddie jumped into the van while Isaac unlimbered his own AR and began to shoot. He pushed Carolina into the rear of the van then followed her, pulling the door closed as he did so. Jesse pushed at Ted who was trying to get off shots of his own. Jesse leveled his sawed off and blasted the head off one of the undead who had made it past Stacy and Hannah’s shooting. He shoved the smoking firearm into the front of his gunbelt and freed one of the .45’s he had on his body, hammering out the heavy bullets at two other Zombies that reached for him. The things fell even as the slid locked back. Jesse holstered the pistol and freed yet another to shoot around himself at the fiends again.

The dead were among them.

Hannah dove into the Toyota as Stacy hit the gas pedal. The tires spewed gravel from under the tread, even as the Zombies began to reach into the vehicle through the broken windows. She aimed the Toyota at the space that the van was making in front of them, the Toyota shuddering with each dead beast that was knocked aside. Hannah fired the AR into the face of a clutching ghoul that reached into the accelerating vehicle to grab at her clothing. The thing dropped away, but was replaced by another. The new threat received the same treatment as the last and Hannah felt the bolt lock open on an empty magazine. Rather than try and reload the rifle, Hannah dropped it to the floorboard and freed her Glock. She fired it across Stacy, who was struggling to steer the Toyota and fend off a ghoul that had grabbed her jacket. The thing sagged and died its final time, but refused to release its hold on Stacy’s jacket. Hannah, yanked her knife free of its arm sheath and with a shout at Stacy not to move, dug the blade under the boney fingers and ripped the blade outward.

Hannah was lucky enough to get the blade wedged between joints and the fingers separated from the hand. With a grunt, the blade sprang free, and Hannah almost fell on Stacy. The Zombie dropped out the window, but the fingers fell in Stacy’s lap. The other woman made a face and groaned in disgust while Hannah began to laugh despite the seriousness of their situation. Gingerly, Stacy picked up a handful of the digits and tossed them out the window, wiping her hand on Hannah’s sleeve.

“You okay?” gasped Hannah between laughs.

“I’m fine,” groused Stacy. “Get ready--.”

She indicated the drive ahead.

Eddie had taken the van off the driveway and to the grass beside the gravel path. He guided the bouncing vehicle on the opposite side of the line of militia vehicles than the undead were on. Several of the militia took the opportunity to shoot at the van, but they were starting to become embroiled among the swarming Zombies just as the companions had at the house. One of the militia trucks started to pull in front of the van, but Isaac appeared through the skylight and fired a full magazine into the windshield of the truck. It swerved and was jerked suddenly in the other direction, sliding sideways on the drive and causing the vehicles behind it to loose momentum and careen off the road. With a skill Hannah did not know he possessed, Eddie managed to weave between the suddenly darting vehicles without hitting one of them.

Stacy was not the driver Eddie was.

She tried to avoid the other trucks, but managed to hit one of them in the rear fender as the passengers in the bed leaned out to shoot at the Toyota. The jolt knocked Hannah almost in the driver’s seat, but also sent the passengers in the truck grabbing for a hand hold. Two of them were not so lucky and fell out of the truck. Hannah saw one go down under the press of the undead who were now among the vehicles and grabbing at the body panels heedless of the consequence to themselves. They were being run down by the large truck and SUV’s as well as being shot by the passengers within. The Zombies had numbers on their side, and for each one that was killed, three more took its place. Only momentum was on the vehicles side, and for several of those, because of the wreckage of the truck whose drive Isaac had killed, were in danger of being swarmed. Passengers were pulled from the backs of the truck and through windows, still shooting into the mass of undead as they were bitten and pulled on.

Glancing behind her, Hannah saw the Expedition closing the gap between them, the massive grill of the vehicle bearing down through the press of Zombies, knocking them aside like they were chaffs of wheat. Ahead of them, Eddie had gained the road and was turning away from the town, away from the undead and away from their route to the Mohican Lodge. Stacy made the road and followed as did Jesse in the Expedition. The van was swerving on the road, though there were no obstacles, and Stacy was starting to swear.

“Something’s wrong,” she was saying over and over. “There’s something wrong.”

The van suddenly came to a stop and the sliding door was thrown open. Carolina and Isaac practically fell out, followed by Eddie, who was clutching at his arm which dripped blood. Stacy came to a screeching halt beside them, barely putting the Toyota in park before she bailed out as well, running up to Eddie. Isaac grabbed her around the waist while Eddie sank to the road. Hannah opened the door and was about to join them when a Zombie lurched around the van, its face bloody and mouth gaping under the bright coloring which seemed to glow against its pale skin. Half of its head was shredded and the bone beneath lay in fragments that stuck out of the brain matter. The thing had only part of the left arm, and the right dangled at an odd angle. It wore a police uniform which was tattered to rags, exposing the bullet proof vest underneath the shirt. It moaned a long hiss at Hannah, seemingly undecided on whether or not to continue its quest for the blood scent that soaked the air from Eddies wound or to change course and assault Hannah. She settled its dilemma and fired the Glock at it, striking its head and shoulders four times. It collapsed to the road without another step.

The Expedition halted next to the Toyota and Jesse climbed out with Chelsea and Ted in tow, He saw the motionless Zombie on the road and then looked at Eddie, still on the pavement swearing and biting back painful groans. He stepped up to him as Stacy broke free of Isaac to fall on her knees beside him. Stacy took his head in her embrace and began to stroke his head, whispering that it was going to be alright.

“What happened?” asked Jesse.

Eddie looked up through pain filled eyes. “For starters, those fuckers shot out the side window and cut me all up with flying glass. Then one of them had the all out nerve to actually hit me with a God damn bullet in the shoulder. As if that shit wasn’t enough, a fucking Zombie attaches itself to the mirror and starts to grab at me, I shot it with Rockatansky,” here he patted the sawed off at his side, “and thought the damn thing was done.” Eddie gritted his teeth as a jolt of pain stiffened his body. “We get up here on the road and the fucker has the balls to reach up and grab me again. How it managed to fucking pull itself up with that arm all busted up is beyond me.”

“Than what?” asked Jesse. Hannah felt a lump rising in her throat.

Eddie grinned. “I got bit, you worthless fucking old bastard.”

“What do you want us to do?” asked Jesse.

Motioning to the rifle Isaac held, he pointed back down the road. Instinctively, they followed his motion. Most of the militia were starting to turn around and hammer up the drive back to the road. “Gimme one of those and some magazines. I’ll stop as many as I can.”

Stacy pulled his face around so that she could look into his eyes. Her own were starting to tar up. Hannah had to look away as she pled with him. “Eddie, Eddie, listen, we can get help, stop the bleeding and help you. Just get back in the van--.”

“Stace—I’m bit, that’s it, all done. Elvis has left the building.”

“There’s got to be something--.”

“Yeah,” said Eddie, swallowing back his own tears. “Kiss me.”

“You bastard,” breathed Stacy. She leaned down and they kissed a long goodbye. “You fucker, I hate you.”

“I know,” he said. “I hate you too. Think good thoughts about me someday, okay?”

“I already am--,” said Stacy as Hannah gently pulled her away. Stacy buried her face into Hannah’s shoulder as they walked to the Toyota.

Jesse grabbed the AR from Isaac and handed it to Eddie. “You want us to drag you off the road some?”

“I can still move, you old shit.”

Jesse and Isaac moved into help him anyway. They half dragged him to the ditch where he got comfortable for shooting. Hannah put Stacy in the Toyota and overheard the conversation as Eddie said his own brand of goodbye.

“You dumb asses better get going, I’d hate to have laid here in the dirt for nothing when I could just be blowing my brains out all over your shiny new Ford, Jesse,” quipped Eddie in a pain filled voice.

“Right, kid, we’re gone,” said Jesse. “It was a pleasure, Eddie.”

“Aw, you hate me and I know it,” returned Eddie.

There was a long pause. “You’re right, Eddie, you’re a stupid mother fucker for getting bit. I told that .410 was worthless.”

“See? I knew it, can’t stand me.” Both men laughed and then there was another second of silence.

“Here take this, I can’t use it, besides, it’s all we got left of Joe, other than that piece of shit van,” said Eddie.

“Rockatansky. I remember when he made this thing.” Hannah could hear the grin in Isaac’s voice.

“How long we known each other, Bro?” asked Eddie.

“Since we were, fuck, nine?”

“Twelve years, give or take,” agreed Eddie. “Tell me, you ever bang Stacy?”

“Nope.”

“Honest?”

“Honest,” said Isaac.

“What about Lynn?”

“God, you are a pervert even when you’re about dead,” exclaimed Isaac.

“I take that as a yes.”

“Yes.”

“Any good?”

“Jesus--.”

“Com’on, man, give me something, I’m dying here,” joked Eddie, as he broke into a spasm of coughing.

“Yes, Eddie, it was everything you ever thought it would be,” said Isaac.

“You lying?”

Hannah heard the grin in Isaac’s voice. “Nope.”

“Ah, shit, I can die happy. At least one of us got her.” Another second of quiet. “Take care of Stacy for me.”

“I will.”

“You and her are all that’s left of the gang, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“Listen get the fuck out of here, get away from this shit. Name your first kid after me.”

“Will do.” The voice broke with emotion and Isaac began to move away.

“Isaac--,” called Eddie.

“Yeah?”

“Love you, man,” he said.

“Yeah, I love you too.” A door on the van slammed and the vehicle started.

Hannah turned the key in the Toyota. She glanced back at Stacy who was staring out the window at the fields. Stacy saw Hannah looking back and spoke as Hannah started the Toyota moving. “You know all that shit I was saying in the barn? I meant it. All of it. He was such a fucker. Such a bastard.” Stacy began to cry. “I loved him anyway.”

Hannah said nothing and pressed the gas pedal down to keep up with the van. Listening to Stacy’s sobs from the backseat, Hannah wondered where it was all going to end.



As she drove at the breakneck pace of 40 miles and hour, sometimes slowing to get past wreckage in the roadway, Hannah, pondered the situation that they were in, which seemed to be driving aimlessly from place to place, staying just long enough to get comfortable then having to grab whatever they could and run. Instinctively, Hannah knew they needed to find a place that was not only defendable, but also had room or the ability to plant crops to feed them when the food ran out, That meant the ability to hunt as well, if they were going to keep eating meat as a staple of their diet. She had tried the vegetarian life style, and found that she often craved a hamburger on hot summer evenings when everyone else was grilling out.

While she was sure that eventually, they would be able to go back to the farm house and claim some of the items they had to leave behind, for the moment, Hannah felt that their entire quest to reach the lodge was becoming a charade that was just enough of a dream to keep them moving and alive. It seemed that every turn they made led them deeper into situations that depleted the most important assets they had; living people. Attrition was literally, killing them. They had started out with ten people and were now down to seven, six of them had come from the lake, and of the four she had started out with, only three lived. Mathematically, and Hannah sucked at math, she figured they were losing a fourth of their strength with each stop. The Zombies on the other hand, they seemed to be gaining on them. Shaking her head, Hannah paused in her reverie to narrow her eyes as the road took them past the intersection of 511. When they reached this point, Hannah, who for some reason was in the lead, saw a man walking in the middle of the road ahead of them. Hannah called to Stacy to get her rifle ready as they approached. Stacy leaned over the seat and looked to where Hannah indicated. She frowned at the figure walking, then climbed over the seat to the passengers side.

“That dude’s alive,” she said with a small amount of uncertainty in her voice.

“I think so,” agreed Hannah.

“Why the hell is he walking?” asked Stacy.

“I don’t know--,” muttered Hannah in annoyance at Stacy.

Ahead, the man heard the Toyota and hesitated for a second as if trying to decide whether to run for it or stand his ground. He seemed to be staring at the three vehicles, then stopped and stuck out his thumb. The gesture made Hannah laugh.

Stacy, who had left her rifle in the backseat, reached back to get it. “You going to stop?”

“Hell, yes,” said Hannah. “I can’t pass this one up.”

Stacy pulled her AR to the front, then stared at the man as he stood in the road, his thumb still out. She grinned tiredly, almost sadly as she spoke. “He looks cute.”

“Certainly does,” agreed Hannah, slowing the Toyota down. Jesse honked the horn of the Expedition. Hannah imagined he was telling her to keep going, but Hannah ignored him. As they neared, Hannah could see that yes, the man was cute.

He wore a beat up straw cowboy hat that was faded from the sun, under the hat jutted curly blond hair, but the beard on his unshaven face was red. A brown leather jacket that seemed to fit his frame well protected his torso; Hannah could see the marks of numerous bites and scratches on the leather. Lightweight armored motorcycle gloves were on his hands, and he wore jeans and combat boots. Battered baseball catchers shin guards were over the jeans. He had a small back pack on, a gun belt that sported a thigh holster and standard holster above it, then a left handed holster on the other hip. All around his waist were magazine pouches, over his shoulder he had a black rifle, on like Hannah had never seen before, and on his other thigh were magazine pouches for the rifle. In addition to those weapons, he had two big knives stuck in the straps of the shine guards and another attached to the backpack. A fourth was on his right hip on the gun belt. From the backpack jutted the sawed off grip of a pump shotgun. To Hannah he seemed to be the most prepared person she had seen since this had all happened, except for the fact he was walking.

He grinned at the Toyota, dropping his hand as Hannah came to a stop beside him.

“I ain’t bit,” were his first words in a soft southern burr.

You want to be? Wondered Hannah as she stared into the Hazel eyes that he exposed by taking off the wrap around sunglasses. She felt her face flush at the thought and looked away from a second.

“Can you prove it?” asked Stacy with a slight edge in her tone.

“I can,” he drawled slowly, “But I’d prefer not to right here standin’ in the road.”

“What are you walking for?” asked Hannah.

“My damn truck took a shit, excuse me, and I been walking since.”

“Where are you from?” asked Stacy.

“I claim West Virginia as home, but I got work up here and here I am.”

Hannah heard other doors slam and she saw Jesse coming up with his CAR ready.

“Where are you headed?”

“I’ve been holed up with a couple other folks in a house down the road,” he explained. “It’s bricked up and we’ve got a pretty good thing goin’ for the moment.”

Jesse came up on Hannah’s side. “What the hell?” He demanded.

“He needs a ride,” said Hannah.

“So we’re stoppin’ for just anybody walkin’ down the road?”

Hannah shook her head thinking, no just the cute ones. She continued to shake her head to clear the thought. “He seems fine.”

“I am.”

“What’s you name?” asked Jesse gruffly.

“Owen, sir.”

“Sir?” repeated Jesse. “Do I look like a sir to you?”
“I was just tryin’ to be polite,” explained Owen.

“Knock it off,” said Jesse. He looked at Hannah. “If you’re going to give him a ride, then let’s do it. We’ve still got other problems to worry about.”

“What’s that, si--?” Owen stopped himself.

“The whole dead town of Loudonville is following us, along with some unpleasant folks who don’t seem to like us,” mentioned Hannah.

“Loudenville?” questioned Owen. “You made it through Perrysville, I thought they had the bridge on the other side blown up?”

“Perrysville?” returned Jesse.

“Yeah, if you stay on this road, its 39, first is Perrysville then you get to Loudonville.” Owen shook his head. “Now Perrysville’s got some dead in it. Most of the town by now I’ll bet.”

Hannah could see that Jesse was gritting his teeth. “Let’s get going.

“So’ve I got a ride?”

“Get in,” ordered Jesse. “And don’t make any stupid moves.”

“No, sir,” said Owen, opening the rear door and sliding into the cabin.

Hannah waited until Jesse was almost at the Expedition, then put the car into gear. “Where to?”

“Straight. Then up on the left is going to be Township Road 1075. Take that to Coulter.”

Hannah started down the road, avoiding the abandoned cars that were there. “Coulter?”

“Not surprised. It’s a little bump in the road,” advised Owen. “We’ve got a little country store that’s got about nothin’ left in it, a church, that’s where we’re all staying, and a couple houses. The country store’s got a couple above ground gas tanks that’re nearly dry. That’s what I was doin’ in my truck, lookin’ for gas and food.”

“Did you go alone?” asked Stacy.

“No.”

“How many others went with you?” asked Hannah.

“Two,” informed Owen. “Two. Their families gonna be pissed at me.”

“Was it your fault they died?” asked Stacy.

“Nope, but since it was my idea, it’ll be my fault.”

“How are they going to take our arrival?” asked Hannah.

“Not good,” smiled Owen, leaning back. “They’ll raise a fuss, but then they’ll shut up when I say your okay.”

“Why’s that?’

“’Cause I got more guns than Jesus,” laughed Owen. “They got a couple shotguns and pistols, a rifle or two, but I got them beat no matter what guns they got.”

Stacy turned in the seat to look at Owen. “Why?”

Owen gave her a tight smile, and a small shrug. “’Cause until this shit happened, I had no clue what I was on this earth for, but now, I can tell you; I was put here to kill Zombies. I’m the best fuckin’ gun around. Pardon my French.”

No sure what to think about his bragging, Hannah decided to change the subject. “What happened to the other two, other than they got bit?”

“‘Tween you and me, they brought it on themselves. They didn’t do what I said for them to do, they just went headlong into the store and then got bit, that’s the short of it,” said Owen. He looked at the cases of MRE’s under his arm and the ammo boxes that were scattered on the floor boards, but said nothing about them. “The long tale? Turn here. The long one, well, it’s like this; we’re running out of food, the gardens aren’t producing like they thought they would, I’m not a farmer, but they said the long dry spell, the hard rain and then them not being able to get out and do the weeding like should’ve been done what with the Zombies runnin’ around, choked the crop. There’s a big field of soy beans, another of corn around us, but corn and them beans’ll only do so much to keep us alive. We’ve shot a couple deer and one of the big farmers’s still got cows that we’ve been rustlin’. I don’t think that the farmer’s alive to care what we do with his cows, but oh well.

Pushing a case of MRE’s aside, Owen leaned back up to put his head between the two women. “Anyway, I come up with a plan to get more food, if there was some to be had. We were going to run the railroad into town, stop there just behind the grocery store and go in the back door, grab what we could before the Zombies zeroed in on us and get out. The railroad runs right behind us and that’s how I came to Coulter. I walked in from Loudonville after the outbreak down the line, trying to get back to Lucas. I made it to Lucas, but the town’d burned mostly, and I picked up my shit, drive my truck back to Coulter, ‘cause they’d helped me out and said to come back if I needed.”

“Why didn’t you have your truck?” asked Stacy.

“Car pooled into work that night.” He laughed. “Didn’t know the place was closed and then all of a sudden it was like the whole town was over run at once.”

“So the other two guys?” prompted Hannah.

“I told them to wait until I checked out the front, but they got all excited and busted open the back door, started to load the truck up with out one of them keepin’ an eye out.” Owen shook his head. “There were three of the damn things in the store and they got bit. I showed back up after checkin’ the front to find the truck half loaded and them fightin’ the damn things off with a crowbar and a broom. Neither one of them had taken their guns out of the cab of the truck.”

“What happened?”

“I shot all of them and got in the truck to get the hell out of there.” Sighing, Owen bit his lip as he spoke. “The Zombies started chasin’ me, and I tried to go too fast down the railroad. I managed to out distance them, but blew out the two front tires on a couple of ties that were out of the bed. I left it and started walkin’.”

“How’d you end up on the road?”

“Thought that by takin’ the road, I’d throw off the scent of the Zombies.” He shrugged again. “It sounded good. I ducked into a ditch when those militia guys came by and then kept walkin’.”

“You know about the militia?”

“We’ve been hearin’ their radio traffic,” he said. “One of our people’s a part-time deputy and he’s got his radio. I know somebody’s pissed them off, apparently they lost about seven guys in a firefight not but a couple days ago.”

Hannah and Stacy were silent at the information Owen had just given them. He took their silence to be an indication that they were done asking questions and sat back, moving his rifle around to a different position. Jesse brought the Expedition around the others, indicating they should follow him. Hannah wondered where he was going to take them, and he pulled off the road at the railroad crossing. Jesse got out as did Ted and Chelsea. Isaac and Carolina exited the van and they all converged on the Toyota. Hannah and Stacy got out, as did Owen. Curiosity clearly written on his face. Jesse squared off with the younger man, his hand not straying far from his .45.

“So, Owen, tell me, how much farther?”

“About a mile, give or take,” said Owen.

“What kind of defenses, how many people?”

“Defenses?” repeated Owen. “Hell, when the Zombies show up, we high tail it to the church and shoot them from the windows. The windows are higher than the ground and they can’t reach up and in. We only got to barricade two doors that way. It ain’t a big church, more like a meetin’ hall.”

“People?” coached Jesse.

“Fifteen, maybe.” Owen seemed to be counting faces in his head. He nodded. “Seventeen, including the kids.”

“Weapons?”

“Jesus, dude, I’m the weapons.”

“What do you mean?”

Owen sighed and waved a hand at the air around him. “It’s like this, boss, they’ve got like some rifles and shotguns, even a few pistols, but when it comes to shootin’, nobody touches me.”

“Oh yeah?” said Jesse, dismissing Owen’s words about his skills. “Well, what are they goin’ to do when three trucks show up with another seven people in them? Are they gonna put up a fight?”

“Naw, they’re gonna be pissed at me, but they’ll think you’re great for bein’ there.” Owen grinned. “We haven’t seen other people in a month. If you want to get in with them, tell ‘em you’re gonna get the truck for them. I blew out the tires and they need the food we got in it.”

Jesse thought for a moment. “Where is the truck?”

“Down the tracks a piece.”

“What were you doin’ on the road?”

Owen repeated his story. Jesse listened and when he came to stirring up the undead in town and them following him out of the village, his face hardened. On his diving in the ditch to escape the militia, Jesse shook his head. “Ripples in the pond,” he muttered.

“What?”

“The actions of one person is magnified over distance,” explained Jesse. “When you got the undead movin’, you created a world of shit for us, that’s one reason why we had to move.”

“Sorry?” tried Owen.

“Never mind. Hannah, do you think you can drive that Toyota down the tracks to get to the truck?”

“Sure.”

“Let’s get their food as a peace offering.” Jesse motioned to the others. “You guys get this stuff out of the Cargo area, and put it in the Ford.” He turned to Owen. “How far?”

“Three miles down the tracks, I guess.”

“You do a lot of guessin’.”

Owen smiled. “I got other things I’m good at.”

They transferred all the items from the Toyota and once it was finished, they agreed that the others would back into the driveway to stay off the road and hidden until Jess, Hannah and Owen returned. Stacy wanted to go, but Jesse vetoed her telling her that he wanted to risk as few of them as he had to. Taking the wheel, Jesse guided the SUV onto the bumpy railroad tracks. Hannah grabbed up her AR as they bumped along at a slow pace so they would not end up like Owen had. The trees were growing up near the tracks, and Hannah could see the fields beyond. They had been planted and the crops were starting to ripen. She wondered what was going to happen next year when all the fields were strewn with weeds and there was no one to replant.

“It’s just a head,” said Owen.

Hannah saw the red truck sitting at an angle on the tracks. There were a couple undead milling near the truck. Seemingly lost as to what to do with the empty cab. They saw or heard, or sensed the Toyota coming at them, and started to stagger toward them.

“Get close,” urged Owen, “You and her can unload out stuff, get the guns in the front too. I’ll handle ‘em.”

Jesse snorted. “There’s four more behind the truck.”

“I got ‘em,” assured Owen.

Jesse pulled up near the truck and Owen stepped out. He freed his rifle, and Hannah watched. Jesse grinned.

“A silenced MAC,” he said.

“What?” asked Hannah.

“It’s like your little .22 and that MP5, it’s silenced. Wonder where he got it?”

Hannah said she didn’t know and watched as Owen pointed the MAC at the two ghouls. They suddenly fell, and Owen moved forward, still pointing the MAC. She watched as the other four Zombies dropped. Owen waved his hand and took up a position behind the truck.

“I guess that’s our cue,” said Jesse. “You grab the guns in the cab and I’ll start on the rest.”

Hannah did so, picking up the shotgun and rifle, and the bloody pistol belt. She carried them to the Toyota and then helped Jesse load the boxes of food into the Toyota. They signaled to Owen they were finished and he came back to the SUV, climbing in. Jesse managed to turn the thing around and headed back to the railroad crossing.

“So that’s why you think you’re so good?” asked Jesse. “You got a silenced machinegun?”

“Nope,” said Owen. “That’s just an edge I got. I’m good ‘cause I can take any reasonable number of them and walk away.”

“What’s reasonable?”

“Twenty or so.”

Jesse laughed.

“Then why’d you run when they showed up at the store?” needled Jesse.

“I had to get the food back,” answered Owen simply.

Hannah shook her head at the man’s bravado. He was cute, but his attitude could be grating.

Owen saw her shake her head. “I know you think I’m full’a shit.”

“Yeah,” agreed Hannah. “I do.”

“It’s okay,” said Owen to her with a small grin. For some reason Hannah didn’t find the smile annoying like she would have done with other men. On Owen it was just comforting. Not knowing what to say, Hannah simply relaxed in her seat as Jesse muscled the Toyota off the railroad tracks to have the other two vehicles fall in line behind them. Ahead, through the trees, Hannah could see a cluster of buildings, a small bricked church, a bricked store front and several houses. People were standing in the road as they pulled up, and unlike the sightless dead they had been encountering standing in the road, these people were breathing. They watched warily as the three vehicles came to a stop, then seemed to relax slightly when Owen stepped out of the Toyota. He waved at them and spoke.

“Well, I got good new and bad news--.”
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:38 pm

A man stepped forward, carrying a lever action rifle and wearing a base ball cap, he looked like a bad second in a B-slasher film. He was skinny, and his beard curled in a thick tangle around his mouth, hiding his lips so that when he spoke it seemed that his mouth never moved.

“I suppose that the bad news is that Earl and Jim didn’t make it?” he said, noting that the two were not among the people currently standing next to the vehicles. The man seemed to note the weaponry that they all held and then a look of defeat dimmed his eyes. Hannah wondered why the man looked so distraught at their appearance.

“That would be the truth,” said Owen. “They weren’t payin’ attention and got snuck up on by a bunch’a Zombies.”

“And you escaped, of course,” sighed the man.

“I told ya’ll you had to listen to me, they didn’t,” said Owen flatly. “On the other hand, these good folks here helped me get the food we got back here.”

“A ray of sunshine,” agreed the man. “Where’s the truck?”

“Blew out two tires on the railroad tracks,” shrugged Owen. “We can get it later.”

“We heard the radio chatter from the militia, you manage to keep from tangling up with them?”

“I jumped in the ditch.”

“Well, they’re good and pissed off,” informed the man. “Seems they went on a raid and it turned on them. The people escaped and they got followed home by a few Zombies. Took a lot of ammo to clean it up for no return.”

“Too bad for them,” agreed Owen. “If things go like they’ve been, we better get this stuff inside before the straggler Zombies get here.”

Jesse stopped Owen. “Straggler Zombies?”

“Yeah, every time the militia goes screwing around we get ten or fifteen of them that wander into town. We button up and take them out with crossbows and such. Cuts down on the noise.”

The skinny man interrupted. “You would be?”

“Jesse.” Jesse waved a hand at the rest of them. “We’re kind of passin’ through and gave Owen a hand. If we could, we’d like to keep movin’ on—so--.”

“We’ll get our goods,” agreed the man. He turned and called to the others, giving an “all clear”.

A couple of people surrounded Owen and he gave a quick synopsis of what happened at the store. A women began to cry and was led away by a couple of younger boys, then they lined up to unload the Toyota. It was strange to watch the mechanical movements of the people as they dutifully began their task. The two family’s that the men had belonged too were upset, but not overwrote, which surprised Hannah. One of the women gave Owen a hard stare and then sighed. There must have been a lot of death for her to act like that. She asked Owen about it as they unloaded the meager amount of supplies for what was a fairly sizeable community. Owen gave her one of his patented smiles.

“Well, He was kinda her ex-husband,” explained Owen. “They were together because of the kids. Now they’ll take it harder than she did.”

“Kind’a?” mimicked Hannah.

“Yeah, I guess since they couldn’t get it finalized by the courts, what with all the dead risin’ up it was sort’a unofficial.”

Looking at the people, Hannah saw that they all were pale and listless as they worked. She said something about this and Owen agreed.

“They’re not much on fun,” he said. “Makes for a long day, that’s for sure. These people are all beat down. I don’t see them lastin’ much longer.”

“No?”
“They all got this world-is-against-them attitude and it’s wearin’.” Owen pulled the last box from the cargo area. “Ya’ll got room for another?”

“We’d have to ask Jesse--,” stammered Hannah.

“He’s the head man is he?”

Hannah had never really thought about it. “I suppose--.”

A voice shouted out over the crowd. “Here they come!”

Owen grinned. “Well, we’re not goin’ anywhere, unless you leave now. I imagine that the road’ll be pretty busy in a few minutes.”

Runiing up to them, Jesse grabbed Owen. “What the hell are they talkin’ about?”

“Zombies, friend, lots’a Zombies.” He pointed to a small barn behind one of the buildings. “Pull your trucks back there, then follow me. I’ll show you where I hole up when all this starts up.”

Hannah looked at Jesse for direction. The older man sighed and shrugged, then headed to the Expedition. Hannah followed as Jesse pulled the truck off the road to the indicated spot. Isaac did the same with the van and they all piled out, carrying their BOB’s, ammo boxes, sleeping bags, and Ted and Chelsea each had two cases of the MRE’s. Owen grabbed the weapons that had belonged to Earl and Jim, saying their family’s would want them back. He also tucked a case of MRE’s under his arm as well as grabbing up a box of ammo. He ran ahead of them and opened a rusty steel door holding it open until they were all inside.

The door emptied into a short hallway, and Owen directed them to take the stairs at the end. He warned them that the steps between the second and fifth were gone and they needed to “walk the plank” to get up. With all the gear they carried, this proved to be somewhat adventurous, but they all made it. Once on the other side, Owen pulled the plank up after them. He beamed at Hannah in the dim light.

“Zombie proofing, the windows are all busted out in the front,” he explained. “They get in here and reach the steps and fall through. We get rid of them later. The basement’s just a big hole. We took out all the stairs in here and get to them from the cellar doors on the outside. It gets exciting.”

He climbed the stairs and they found themselves in a wide hall at the top. There were adjoining rooms off the hallway and Owen led them into one of them. Large ceilings and tall windows let in light. Furniture was haphazardly positioned around the room and from one of the couches, a head lifted up to see who had entered. The shaggy mane of hair fell into the looker’s eyes, but the guy did nothing to clear his vision. Hannah thought she smelled stale marijuana in the air. The mop head spoke.

“Dude, what’s up?”

“Zombies.”

“Okay, so that’s normal. But, like, who are these dudes?”

“They gave me a ride,” explained Owen.

“Cool. Did ya get me any beef jerky?”

Owen dug inside his jacket and flipped a handful of wrapped meat to the guy. He caught about half the air born packages and sat up to gather up the rest. Owen set the MRE case down on a rickety table and motioned to the room as he began to divest himself of his weaponry.

“Make yourself at home,” he invited.

Hannah set her gear down on a threadbare chair and went to the window and looked out. The height reminder her of being in her apartment. Below, the main street was starting to fill with undead. She watched as one fell with a short arrow through its skull. Hannah turned away.

“So where’s every one else?” asked Isaac, placing his items on the table.

“They went to the church.”

The hair guy spoke up. “You don’t want to go to the church, man. Its a total downer. They like sing hymns and pray and shit all the time. You can’t smoke.”

“I wonder why?” said a bemused Jesse as he wandered the room, looking into the adjoining space and seeing more of the same eclectic mix of furniture.

“Fuck, dude, I don’t know,” answered the guy, pulling the wrapping off the beef jerky.

“Who else stays here?” questioned Isaac.

“Well, shit. Forgive me for not making proper introductions. That’s Hank,” said Owen. The mop head raised his hand as he chewed. “Some where around here’s David and I imagine that sunnin’ themselves on the roof are Michelle and Anne. We’re the ones who didn’t live here when this all started so they kind’s stuck us away from everyone.”

“They don’t let you in the church?’

“We kind’a got kicked out.”

“What did you do to receive that honor?”

“It’s a story that is best left untold.”

Hannah joined Stacy on the couch where she had fallen with all of her gear.

“You okay?” asked Hannah.

“I’m alive,” said Stacy. She looked to where they others were talking, focusing on Isaac. “You know he likes you?”

“Isaac?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m aware of that.” Hannah sighed. “I’m not sure I’m feeling all that reciprocal.”

“You know he lied to Eddie, don’t you?”

“About you sleeping together?”

“Yes. It was one time, Eddie and I had broken up for about the twelfth time. Isaac had taken me to a party to get my mind off it ‘cause Eddie was kind of dating this other chick,” explained Stacy. “I got drunk. So did he. He tried to get me in my apartment and to bed with out hitting on me, which was nice and gallant, but we kind of ended up naked.”

“How was it?”

“Nice. Isaac’s nice. He’s a gentleman. He was so uncomfortable I almost felt bad.” Stacy smiled at the memory. “He didn’t look me in the eye for a week and I finally had to corner him and get him over it. I told him that it was just sex and he needed to chill out. The great thing was; Eddie was such an ass for a while after that Isaac stopped feeling guilty about sleeping with his best friend’s woman.” Stacy paused. “I’m tired.”

“We all are.”

“I’m tired of living, Hannah. I just want to stop running.”

“This can’t last forever,” said Hannah.

“Can’t it?”

Hannah had nothing to say to that. She was thankful that the conversation was interrupted by two women, one a young looking twenty-something and the other thirtyish, who came into the room wearing shorts and bras. They saw the unfamiliar men in the room and stopped.

“Hey,” said Owen.

“We have company,” said the oldest.

“Yes.”

“They’re singing again,” Hannah assumed she meant the people in the church, “and shooting those things. It’s annoying.” The woman stepped into the room. “I’m Anne.”

Owen nodded to the others in the room with him. “They picked me up when the truck broke.”

“I saw you ride into town,” mentioned Anne, walking over and picking up a shirt that had been lying on the back of one of the chairs. She sat and assessed the newcomers. “Been on the road long?”

Jesse stepped up and spoke, either to keep the rest form saying too much or because he found the woman attractive, Hannah could not say. “Not too long. We’re just trying to find a place that we can survive and sit out this whole mess.”

“Yeah, us too. Right now, this seems to be the place, but with those Jesus people, I don’t know.”

“How’s that?” asked Jesse.

The four others glanced at each other as if trying to find the words that fit the situation. Finally Owen spoke. “They’re not too—motivate around here. Their preacher got killed and that seemed to take the wind out of their sails. The only reason they’ve had food here the last week or so is we’ve been goin’ and raidin’ the abandoned houses around the country side. They didn’t want to even give us a truck to do that.”

“So their waiting to die?”

“They’re waitin’ on the government to help them,” said Owen.

“I haven’t seen a lot of government in the last few weeks,” said Jesse.

Another man stomped into the room. He was about Jesse’s age and big, in a redneck kind of way, to much belly to go with the deep chest and thick neck. He held a pump shotgun in his hands and had a couple of pistols on a belt that wrapped low on his hips to clear the jutting stomach. He stared at the Hannah and company for a moment, then shrugged. Striding into the room, he seemed to be pushing the air in front of him, his attitude coupled with his physical size taking up a great deal of space.

“You’re back,” he observed to Owen, going over to a window to look out at the street. “Them dumb fuckers in the church are wasting time as usual. They hit about one for every four they shoot at. They should let them get closer.” He turned back to the room. “Who are these people?”

“They gave me a ride,” said Owen softly.

“You crash the truck?” sneered the big man, who Hannah had assumed was David. “Figures. You couldn’t drive a tow motor either. How are they going to eat? If you crashed the truck, then all the food got left behind, right?”

“We got the food,” informed Owen.

“I don’t see it,” said David, looking around the room. His eyes fell on the cases of MRE’s and the ammo boxes they had brought in. “Ah, you did get food. Did something right then. Let’s dig in then, it’s going to be a while before they kill all of those things.”

“Those belong to us,” growled Jesse.

Stopping in front of one of the MRE cases, the man cocked his head. “Oh? You unwilling to share with people in need? The way I see it, man, the living got to stick together.”

“I have no problem with sharin’ with people in need,” said Jesse, slowly walking over to the man. “That doesn’t mean you get to just pick over the selection. When I think it’s time to eat, I’ll share then.”

“Hold on brother,” sniggered David. “Didn’t mean a thing, but it’s just in a community, you gotta give a little, you know?”

“No, I don’t.”

David saw that he was not going to bully Jesse into letting him open the case of MRE’s and thoughtfully scratched his beard. Hannah could see that he was sizing Jesse up, taking in the thinner man’s frame and weight, trying to decide what he needed to do to push him into a niche where he could be controlled. There was an electricity in the air that emanated from the two men, and it made the others begin to fidget uncomfortably. The young woman, Michelle, turned on her heel and walked out of the room. Anne looked as if she were trying to decide what to say to calm the situation down, and Hannah could see Isaac and Ted begin to move where they could cover Jesse if need be. Carolina stepped behind them, her eyes suddenly sad at what was transpiring because she knew she was powerless to stop it. Hank stayed in his chair, chewing thoughtfully on his beef jerky, watching the drama unfold as if it were a TV show or movie he could not tear his gaze from.

Watching David carefully, Hannah eased her rifle close to her side and flipped the safety off. Beside her, Stacy freed her pistol, a motion that was done with a flourish and caught the attention of David, his face turning red as he realized that he was not going to be able to browbeat them. Owen had stepped back, seemingly moving toward one of the windows to look out, but Hannah could see that he was looking to keep out of the line of fire.

Chelsea was the one who stopped the situation from getting out of control. She stepped up to the two men and grabbed the MRE case from where it sat on the table, staring at David as if she were daring him to say something to her.

“This is ours,” she said, backing away. “Owen got your food.”

Looking like he wanted to slap Chelsea, David clenched his fist and after a moment of struggling for control of himself, which the girl time to separate herself from the two men with the case, he gave a bitter laugh.

“Sure, little girl, I thought that’s what Owen got for us.”

“If you want some, you can ask,” Chelsea told him.

Jesse cut in. “We’ll have some later.”

David hefted the shotgun while staring at Jesse and talking. “Later. Sure. I’m going up on the roof.”

He turned and plowed out of the room, leaving behind a cold draft in his place. Hannah eased the safety off her rifle and Stacy holstered her pistol. Owen gave a short laugh.

“I thought it was going to get ugly.”

“It was,” said Jesse. “Who was he?”
“He was out foreman,” said Owen. “He followed us out of the plant when the whole thing hit. He gets pushy, but we ignore him for the most part, because it’s easier than arguing with him.”

“Sounds dangerous,” muttered Jesse. “He push everyone around, or just you guys?”

“Mostly us,” said Anne, standing and heading to the door. “I’m going to go find Michelle.”

For some reason, Hannah found herself standing and pulled Stacy up with her. She motioned to Carolina. “We’ll go with you.”

“I’m fine,” said Anne.

“It’s not a problem,” assured Hannah, slinging the AR. Stacy picked up hers as well and looked curiously at Hannah who simply smiled at her and headed out the door. When they were all three outside the room, Hannah turned to Stacy and Carolina. “I don’t trust that David, and I think Anne might be a good source of information.”

Hannah headed in the direction that Anne was walking, the light form the adjoining rooms lighting the hallway in sporadic streaks that highlighted the dust swirling as Anne walked. They followed her into one of the rooms, obviously the one they two women were using as their bedroom from the blankets on the floor and the clothing folded in neat piles next to one wall. Anne was looking around the room angrily, her hands on her hips. She turned to the other three and Hannah could see she was worried.

“What can we do to help?” asked Hannah.

“Kill that son-of-a-bitch,” said Anne flatly.

“What’s going on?” asked Hannah as Carolina and Stacy began to spread out and look in the other rooms for Michelle.

“He’s been trying to run us down since we got here.”

“You want to elaborate?”

Anne sighed heavily. She started to relate the story of how they had escaped. “We all worked together, Me and Michelle and Hank. Owen worked in shipping and receiving and we knew him from him running parts to us and stuff. David was the supervisor on our shift. When we all managed to get out of the factory when those things attacked, it was Owen’s idea to run the tracks and head back to his place. David tried to telling him he was crazy and we needed to get to the parking lot.” Shaking her head, Anne smiled furiously at the memory. “Owen pointed to the parking lot and at all the Zombies running around biting people who were doing just that. He then left David standing there and started to walk. When we followed him, David didn’t have much of a choice.”

Anne leaned against the wall, folding her arms as if she were cold. “We walked here. Spent the rest of the night hiding in this building, and the next day the people who lived here, there were more then, fed us and helped us out. David kept arguing that we needed to go back and everything would be taken care of,” she gave a harsh laugh. “He said that right up until the things wandered into town and killed a half dozen people before we figured out how to stop them. That was Owen who did that.” Anne gave Hannah a look that was mixed with wonder and fear. “That kid is good. It’s scary how good he is.” She shook off the thought to continue. “Anyway. Once that was done, Owen said he needed to get to his place in Lucas. He said he had guns there. I lived in Mansfield, Michelle did too, so we went with him, hoping that we could get home. We didn’t know there was no home to go to.”

Pushing off the wall, Anne began to pace. “When we made it to Lucas, the place was burning, there were people and Zombies everywhere; it was like one of those bad horror flicks where people are screaming and dying, and the monsters just kept coming. People were shooting at them, there was smoke covering everything and when something came out of it, you had to look hard to see if it was a person or a Zombie. Thankfully, Owen’s apartment was in a building right off the tracks. He got us in through the basement doors and to his place. We could hear the things killing everyone upstairs. He kept pulling guns out of the closet and telling use to grab a couple backpacks.

“I was just standing there, listening to all of this and slowly freaking out,” Anne told her. “I thought I was pretty tough for going through two divorces and all that, but this was nothing like that. Michelle was crying, I was standing there, and Owen kept trying to get us to help him. He shoved all this ammo into one backpack and then handed us guns, like we’d know what to do with them; I’d never shot one before, and I know Michelle was the same way. He told us to just carry them and was putting on all those ones he’s got on now. He already had the clips loaded for them, and that machinegun of his. We were just about to leave when one of those Zombies attacked Michelle when she went into the hallway.

“Owen just kind of like, acted. He pressed that gun up against that things head and it exploded, the things head, I mean. Blood got all over Michelle and she screamed. Next thing I know, they’re everywhere. Grabbing, snarling, moaning, teeth snapping, it’s a wonder we didn’t get bit. Owen, he just starts picking targets like he’s at the range and they start dropping, one by one. He’s walking and shooting, calm as can be, always moving to the door and Michelle is screaming and I’m freaking out and shouting at her to shut up.” Stopping in front of Hannah Anne grinned tightly and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Owen stops shooting long enough to take hold of Michelle like this and shakes her,” Anne gave Hannah a quick jolt that rocked her head, “he tells her to shut up or he’s going to leave her, then he grabs up that machinegun and shoots one of the Zombies that comes up on him without even looking really. Kind of points over his shoulder and bam, down it goes.”

Anne dropped her hands from Hannah’s shoulders. “Michele shuts up and we get out of there, lugging all this crap that he’s got. Those things are still out there, the fires are bigger, the smoke is thicker, and Owen finds a truck with the engine running and jumps in. We all pile in with his junk and he takes the railroad tracks back here.”

Stacy and Carolina entered the room and Stacy shook her head at Hannah to tell her they could not find Michelle. Not seeing the other two, Anne was still telling her story.

“We got back here and David and the remains of the town are holed up in the church fighting off a bunch of Zombies. Owen jumps out and does his thing, pretty soon, there’s a bunch of bodies all around and Owen looks like he’s been taking a bath in a slaughter house. David comes out and has the nerve to start yelling at Owen for taking so long.” Wiping her eyes as if she were suddenly tired, Anne heaved out a sigh. “Owen just smiled and walked away. David’s been trying to run the show since then, the townspeople have taken to ignoring us as much as they can, and we’re all slowly dying on the inside, we just don’t care much any more. David uses the low morale to bully everyone he can. We’re running out of food and ammo, and Owen came up with the crossbows to use, which David thought was stupid, but managed to lay claim to all the guns that he could by trading them for crossbows he made and arrows. He’s got the guns he traded for locked up in his room, which we can’t get into, of course.”

Hannah listened to her with growing astonishment. David had made such a big deal about community, which for him just meant that he had victims to prey on. She wondered what made her companions so different from the people of the town that they would put up with such an egotistical man running everything he could. She had to wonder about Owen and how he would allow it to continue. He was laid back, to be sure, but Owen didn’t seem to be the type of person to put up with the treatment for very long. She mentioned this to Anne.

Anne laughed. “Owen knows the only way to stop David, is to kill him. Owen doesn’t think he can take David in a knock down drag out fight because David is so much bigger than him and Owen says he won’t shoot him, there’s not enough people left in the world for that. The townspeople, they just gave up a while ago.”

Suddenly noticing that the other two women where in the room, Anne gauged the looks on their faces. “Can’t find her?’ she said, immediately concerned.

“Not on this floor,” said Stacy.

“Well, there’s only this floor. She wouldn’t have gone down stairs, it’s not safe down there.”

“Roof?” asked Hannah.

“David went up there,” dismissed Anne.

“After Michelle left.”

Swearing, Anne pushed past them and started for the hall. “I don’t trust that bastard with her alone.”

The others followed her, Hannah glad that she had picked up her rifle. The path to the roof was separate from the one that brought them to the second floor. The stairs going up to the roof were behind a small door at the end of the hallway and the stairs themselves were steep and narrow. It was dark in the stairwell, the only light coming from the door below and through the cracks in the door above. Anne pushed on the door and it opened to the flat roof and the sunshine, also the moans of the undead that drifted up to them on the light breeze. Had it not been for that, Hannah might have forgotten that it was a perilous journey they were embarking on.

The flat top of the roof was just enough above the trees to let her see the rolling country side for a distance. She could see the road that led back toward 39 and it was teeming with staggering Zombies. Hannah absently wondered where the ghouls had gotten the where-with-all to suddenly realize that the road led to living flesh; she was sure that there had been none able to follow their little caravan. Anne’s shout turned her attention from the road to the roof.

David was standing next to a defunct air conditioning unit, his body language ridged and towering over Michelle, who was sitting with her back against the unit. Hannah could see that his pistol belt was lying on top of the air conditioner along with the shotgun. Anne was calling David an assortment of descriptively foul names as she held out a hand to Michelle. Even from the short distance, Hannah could see that David was angry and about to become violent with Anne.

“Now, see here, you bitch,” spouted David, balling up his fists, “you got no cause to say shit to me. Ain’t nothing going on here that two adults can’t do if they want. Tell her, Michelle, there ain’t nothing going on you didn’t want.”

“Shut the hell up, David,” snarled Anne. “You just keep away from us.”

“You fucking whores are too good for me? She’ll sack up with that stoner but not me, is that it?” stormed David. “Pretty soon, you’ll be begging me to take care of you. Nobody around here will be able to like me, mark my words.”

“Why David?” asked Anne as Michelle slid away from him and scrambled to her feet. “You know something we don’t?”

“I know that that fuck Owen isn’t the only one with guns,” said David, suddenly backing off with his threats with a look at Hannah, who he seemed to suddenly realize was on the roof with them. Stacy and Carolina were close behind and they spread out, Stacy lifting her rifle slightly at the sight of the man towering over Anne and Michelle. He stabbed a finger at them. “You people, you think you have something just because you showed up suddenly with all them guns. Fuck all of you.”

Grabbing up the pistol and shotgun, David stomped through them and down the stairs. Hannah watched him disappear and wondered what he was talking about, and who he might be referring to when he mentioned the other people with guns. She had an inkling of an idea and hoped she was wrong about who she thought it might be. Hannah was dragged away from that line of thought by Anne who was questioning Michelle.

“What did he do to you?” the older woman was asking.

“Nothing yet,” sighed Michelle with a nervous laugh attached to the end of her statement. “But he was talking himself into something. I came up here to get away from the fight that was about to happen and he followed me. He started talking all nice and shit, then cornered me against the air conditioner. I got scared when he took off that gunbelt.”

Giving the girl a hug, Anne whispered comforting words to her. Hannah stepped up and touched Anne’s shoulder.

“What is he talking about?”

“Who?”

“David, when he talks about people with guns,” explained Hannah.

“I have no clue.”

“Not people here in town?”

“There’s guns, just not much ammo,” said Anne exasperated. “What does it matter, he’s all hot air and bluster.”

“Just asking,” informed Hannah. Stacy called her over to the edge of the roof. Hannah walked over to the low parapet to join her. “Yeah?”

“Their using bows and arrows on these things,” said Stacy. “It’ll take them forever to kill them off this way, and there’s more coming.”

Absently, Hannah nodded while looking over the wall at the gathered beasts below them, staggering about and bumping into doors. The stench was beginning to rise to the level of the roof, making Hannah wrinkle her nose. From the church came the faint sounds of the occupants singing a hymn. Hannah wondered if they knew the noise just attracted the undead to them. “They don’t have much ammo.”

Stacy looked over at Anne. “Listen, I get that, what I’m saying is this; if we don’t either get the hell out of here soon or help out in some way, we’re going to be stuck here for awhile.” She pointed at the undead and one of them fell to an arrow. Another was hit in the chest, and yet another bolt skidded to the pavement, sliding between rotting legs and bouncing near boney feet. “More of them do that than hit. How many arrows do they have; are there enough to kill all of these and the ones that are coming up the road?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Hannah.

“Right, saving ammo is one thing; being stuck here with a rapist is another.”

“Okay--,” Hannah said, waiting for Stacy to get to the point.

“With your rifle, that machinegun of Owen’s and that MP5 that Ted’s dad had, we should be able to help out. We know where to get more ammo if we need too--.”

“You mean the farm house.”

“It’s there.”

“It’s over run with Zombies,” reminded Hannah.

“Then, it was, right now, they look like they’re here.”

There was a crash from the inside of the building. All the women looked at the door leading down. Without waiting for another sign of something going bad, Hannah flipped the safety off her AR and ran for the steps. Stacy followed, swearing under her breath as she did so, cursing everything under the sun, including a few things that were no longer absorbing the light.
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:39 pm

Running down the stairs, Hannah had to wonder when it was all going to end. She felt like she had been on the go for months, like she had not gotten sleep in days and that there was no end in sight to the horror which seemed to becoming the future. There was another loud crash and she heard someone shouting. Skipping several stairs to reach the end of the rise, Hannah found everyone in the hall, racing toward the stairs that led to the first floor. She heard another shout and then the boom of a shotgun, which filled the air around her, hammering at her ears. There was another explosion and another shout. She saw Jesse raise his rifle and fire several times into the narrow opening then all was quiet. From the opening emerged David, holding his smoking shotgun and swearing at everyone in the hall.

“You dumb fucks forgot to pull up the plank,” he raged. “If I hadn’t been walking by, they’d be here right now!”

Everyone in the hall stared at the man in shocked silence, each trying to remember if they had left the plank in place. Hannah didn’t remember what had happened, she remembered Owen explaining the reason for the board, but could not for the life of her, remember if he had pulled it back across the opening.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded, turning on Owen.

“Must not’a been,” drawled Owen.

“You think?”

There was a moan from the downstairs. David pointed back down the stair way. “Those things could be up here right now if it hadn’t been for me.”

“The good thing is, you saw them,” cut in Jesse. “What’s done is done.”

“I don’t think you have a say in this, mister,” returned David. “You being new and all. Maybe you should just shut up while I deal with this?”

“It affects me as much as it does you,” said Jesse. “I’m here, my friends are here and if there was a mistake made, we share in the blame just as much as Owen.”

David nodded, smiling a satisfied look that made Hannah wary. “I guess you do. Since you share the blame, why don’t you just stand here and make sure there’s no other fuck ups? Take a watch here at the stairs.”

“We’ve never done that before,” said Owen.

“Then it’s time we start,” growled David. “Ammo is too precious to waste around here on fuck ups like that. You got a problem standing here and making sure its safe for the rest of us?” He asked Jesse.

“As long as you take your turn, no,” said Jesse.

Stepping up and putting his face near Jesse’s, David snarled out his answer. “I think I just did.”

With that, he turned and walked away, going to a door and with a flourish, produced a key, inserted it into the lock, then disappeared behind the door, banging it shut and rattling the lock again. Hannah came up to Jesse with the rest of the crew.

“We pulled that across,” she said.

“You sure?” asked Jesse.

Hannah stepped back, biting her lip. “Pretty sure.”

“Not good enough.”

“Owen and I were the last ones up the stairs, I remember him telling me that they did it to keep the Zombies out because the windows were broken. He pulled the plank up.”

“You just said you weren’t sure,” pointed out Jesse. He sighed. “Listen, I’m not sayin’ I don’t believe you, I am sayin’ that if you didn’t, it was a mistake that we can’t afford to make. From now on, until we leave, we double check everything that’s being done.”

“Where’s he been?” asked Isaac, casting a meaningful glance at the door that David went through.

“Up on the roof,” murmured Hannah, not wanting to go into the happenings on the roof until Anne okayed it. At the moment, the woman was quiet.

“The whole time?”

“I guess.”

Signaling and end to the speculation, Jesse pointed to Owen. “Drag me a chair out here and open one of those MRE cases. Bring me whatever you pull out first.”

“You want me to sit with you?” asked Owen.

“Naw, I’ll be fine.”

Hannah interrupted, “We need to talk--.”

“This is over, Hannah.”

“No, I mean about other things,” she said, feeling the anger flash over her.

“Everyone?”

“Might as well be,” she said.

Jesse nodded. “Okay, drag the food out here and grab some floor.”

They did, bringing out the cushions from the couches and chairs and settling down around where Jesse leaned against the wall across from the stairwell, digging his plastic spoon into a glob of white goo that he said was chicken and rice. Hannah looked suspiciously into the brown envelope that held, according to the lettering on the outside of the package, ham and eggs. It was yellow, and had chunks of what might have been ham suspended in the rubbery mix. Jesse had advised putting hot sauce on it. Hannah did so, dumping the bottle in. She mixed the contents and peeled the top back to insert the spoon. Thankfully, it tasted like eggs, if a bit too spicy from the hot sauce. The others were just as careful picking into their meals, all but Owen, who simply began to eat, finishing one package and then opening another once the first was finished. She saw he had the cracker and was spreading something that looked like jelly all over it. He saw her watching and grinned, popping a portion of the cracker into her mouth.

Hannah gave a laugh and finished her eggs. Owen called to Chelsea. She looked up and he tossed her a package of candy. Chelsea caught the gift, inspected it and thanked the man.

“So what’s important that everyone sit out in the hall?” asked Jesse, biting into a brown square.

“Stacy pointed out that if we wait for the town to kill all the Zombies with their bows and arrows, we’ll be here quiet a while,” said Hannah. “Also, we don’t know how many arrows they have--.”

“Bolts,” corrected Jesse. “They’re called blots. Arrows are longer.”

“Whatever,” dismissed Hannah, “we can help out.”

“Our rifles will just attract more,” said Isaac.

“Right, if we used them,” agreed Hannah. “But, I’ve got my rifle, we have that MP5 and Owen has his MAC, all of them are silenced.”

“Problem is,” countered Jesse, “the MP5’s in the Expedition. I grabbed my CAR because that’s what we were all carryin’ when we came in, made it easier to share ammo. Where’s your .22?”

Hannah sat back with a defeated sigh. “I left it in the Toyota.”

“So we’ve to Owen’s MAC.”

“And I’ve got about sixty rounds for it,” supplied Owen.

Hannah sat up. “But I know how to make silencers.”

“What are you goin’ to put them on?” asked Jesse. “And what are you goin’ to make them out of? Have you seen what you need around here to make them? I really get what you’re sayin’, but unless you want to attract all the undead from here to Loudonville, we’re waiting.”

“We have to be able to do something,” protested Hannah.

“Sure, we can sit back for the moment, or we can start shooting from the roof and attract more attention to us.” Jesse folded his empty meal packet up and stowed it in the big bag it had come in. He put the cracker and peanut butter spread in a pocket. “Listen, if you think you can find the stuff to make silencers up here, I’ll help you put them together. I’d make them to fit the AR’s, which means you’ll need big cans. They don’t’ need to be absolutely silent either, just make them so they quiet the report down.”

Looking at the rest of the people in the hall, Hannah decided it was a project for everyone to become involved in. She announced she needed help to get it done and enlisted Anne and Michelle, Owen and Hank. “You guys know what’s up here, I need tubes about three feet long and three inches around.” Hannah mentally counted up the number of AR’s they had. Her’s, Stacy’s, Jesse’s CAR, Isaacs and Chelsea’s. “We need at least five if we can get them. I need end caps or duct tape, and steel wool or those cleaning pads that are the green things. Are there anything like that around?”

To Hannah’s surprise, Hank spoke up first. “Hey, like I know there’s some PVC pipe. I used it to make my bong.”

“How big?”

“Oh, I use a piece about that long,” started Hank, holding his hands a couple feet apart.

Almost laughing, Hannah shook her head and rephrased her question. “How much pipe is there?”

“You mean left?” He watched carefully as Hannah nodded. “Oh, man, I don’t know, a couple pieces like, you know, a few feet long. Some of it’s skinny, some of it’s fatter, you know?”

“You’ll have to show me.”

“Cool. Can I finish eating?”

“Sure, Hank, finish eating.” She suppressed a grin and turned her attention to Anne and Michelle. “You know where we can find some of this stuff?”

“I’ve never paid attention to any of it,” admitted Anne. “We’ll have to look.”

“Ready when you are,” said Hannah. Anne stood and brushed off her hands, Michelle stood with her and they gathered up the remains of the MRE’s, stowing what they had not eaten in one packet for later. Turning to the rest, Hannah gave out her orders. “Scour this place for anything we might be able to use. Tools, anything. Put it in the main room and we’ll inventory there.”

Owen snorted. “The tools are going to be in David’s room. He took them when he started making crossbows from my design.”

Hannah felt the heat of anger flash over her again. “Well, for the good of the community, we’ll just have to get them from him. But first, let’s make sure we even need them.”

They set out in groups to explore the place. Hannah was surprised that they had not really done so before now. She, Anne and Stacy began to look through the girls room first, pulling open drawers and cabinets. It appeared that the place had once been an efficiency apartment, there were pans and dishes, some silverware, cleaning supplies and what not in all the drawers and cabinets. Hannah found a roll of packing tape she could make due with if she needed to, and they found a box of SOS pads and a couple green scrub pads that had seen better days. Anne came up with a hacksaw blade, a hammer and screw drivers. Stacy found a box of condoms, which made them laugh. The next room yielded nothing helpful. They carried their prizes to the main room and found everyone there. The pipe was a combination of black drain pipe and PVC, lengths ranging from two feet to five feet. The black pipe was the widest, too wide really, and the PVC was on the verge of too narrow. They had found a box of bronze stuff that looked like steel wool and some Scotch Brite pads. They had cans of pipe glue with it all, and a hand drill that with out electricity was pretty much worthless. Like Anne, they also had a hacksaw blade. The materials were slim, but Hannah figured she could make two suppressors out of what they had, which was better than none. She now debated on which rifles to use.

After some thought, Hannah decided that she would use Jesse’s CAR, since it had the short barrel and wouldn’t require as much material to make it work, she also decided to use her own. Brainstorming, Hannah began to plan out the design. She determined that she would run the pipe back to the handguard of the carbines, and use a portion of the pipe around the handguard to stabilize the body, making it ridged. Once the length was determined for that, she would use one of the green pads as she had for her .22 as the back cap and fill the pipe with the steel wool and bronze stuff. Then another green pad to cap it. She needed to cut slots in the pipe so the tube would fit over the tall front sight of the AR. Picking up a piece of the PVC, she laid it next to the carbine to gauge the length of the cut. To her chagrin, Hannah found that the PVC was too narrow to fit over the handguard; it was about the same width. She swore and set it down, fighting the frustration.

Isaac asked her what was wrong. Explaining the problem to him Isaac nodded and picked up on of the wider, black pipes.

“Why don’t we use this as the outer body and put the PVC inside it.” He slipped a piece of the PVC partially into the black pipe. “We can use the pipe glue to hold it together, and then you still don’t have to fill the big space of the black pipe with the steel wool.”

“We don’t have enough black pipe to cover the distance on two rifles, I kind of want to make two.”

“So we cut it in half and step it down to the PVC.”

“You’re so smart,” grinned Hannah. Isaac managed to blush.

Hannah directed him to cut the pipe with the hacksaw blade and set Hank to doing the same with the PVC pipe, cutting the proper length. They both complained about using the blades sans the saw, but when Hannah suggested knocking on David’s door, they balked and said they could manage. Hannah frowned at them, but understood that they wished to avoid more conflict. When they were finished, they all took turns at cutting the channel for the front sight in the black pipe. While someone was cutting, Hannah had the others take turns at drilling vent holes in the PVC pipes using the drill bit. They found that one of the screwdrivers had a detachable blade, and the drill bit fit into the handle after a couple turns of tape around the shaft of the bit. It made the job much easier than Hannah’s original suppressor, where she had used a knife for each painful hole. Once they were finished with the black pipe, Hannah fitted each one to the specific rifle and when she was happy with the results, she then sized the PVC pipe to the black pipe, running the PVC back until it hit the front sight, a longer run for her AR as opposed to Jesse’s CAR. They then glued the two pipes together. Once the glue was dry, thankfully the pipe glue was the sort that dried quickly, Hannah shaped the green pad to her liking and began to pack the suppressor tubes. She placed a green pad over the end and taped it up with the packing tape, hoping that it would hold. Once that was finished, has slipped the tubes over the barrels of the AR’s, easing the green pad over the ends of the barrel and the black pipe over the handguard. She again used the packing tape to secure the suppressor to the handguard.

Shaking it, Hannah was glad to see that it held. She directed the others to grab the ammo boxes that held the .223 ammo and follow her.

She took the CAR out to Jesse and handed it to him.

“Ready to snipe some Zombies?”

He grinned and inspected the handiwork. “Will this thing work?”

“It will or it won’t,” she told him.

“Well, let’s find out.” He stood and motioned to Isaac. “You mind watching?”

“I kind of wanted to watch,” he pouted.

Hank stepped up. “Gimme a gun, I’ll sit here, man.”

“You know how to use a gun?” asked Jesse doubtfully.

“I’m a doper, man,” said Hank. “I might be all non-violent for the most part, man, but I gotta protect my stash, you know?”

Jesse grinned. “You might be amazed to hear I do understand.” He had Hannah give Hank her Beretta and a spare magazine. “I haven’t seen them even come close, but if they do, you know what to do?”

“Sure. Shoot until the gun stops and then run like a bitch.”

“It’s a plan,” agreed Jesse. “Remember, aim for the head.”

“Fuck,” breathed Hank. “I’ll be lucky to hit the wall.”

He sat heavily in the chair that had been dragged out into the hall and opened up a beef jerky. After a second of staring at the mop haired stoner, Jesse motioned for Hannah to lead the way to the roof.
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:40 pm

They gathered at the edge of the roof, staring at the gathered undead that were pressing at the doors of the church and wandering the roadway that was the main drag through town. The creatures staggered on decimated limbs, dragging body parts across the pavement, innards and broken limbs, gaping holes exposed to the air and the flies. The flies seemed to be hovering in cloud around the Zombies, giving a seemingly physical form to the stench of the slowly decaying flesh. The moans of the ghouls drowned out the choir of the church, but occasionally, they could hear the strains of the music coming from the piano that accompanied the singers. Not being a regular church goer, Hannah did not recognize the music, but the dirge-like tones told her the occupants were preparing to die.

Isaac whistled, distracting her from the scene. “How many do you think there are?”

He received no guess at the numbers below. Across the way, Hannah could see several people in the steeple of the church, they seemed to be at a loss as to where to shoot next since no more bolts came from the crossbows they held, or they were running out of the short arrows. One of them men noticed them on the roof. Stacy gave them a short wave, which was returned. Jesse propped a foot on the low edge and raised his CAR. “Let’s see how this works. Someone make sure that the magazines stay loaded.”

“Do we have enough ammo?” wondered Hannah as she joined him near the edge, sitting to give herself a more stable shooting platform.

“Make ‘em count,” was all Jesse could answer.

He took aim through the electronic sight and pressed the trigger. The sound was not as loud as it normally was, but it was also not as quiet as the .22, the MAC or the MP5. A Zombie dropped down in the crowd, its head suddenly sporting a gaping hole from which spattered gore onto another ghoul. The bullet hit that undead staggered from the impact of the round as it hit the thing in the neck, the angle of the shot not quite high enough for a two for one shot.

Jesse lowered the rifle and inspected the makeshift suppressor. There was a little smoke coming from the vent holes and the packing seemed to have been pushed against the pad taped to the end. He pushed on the tape. “Need more to keep it in. There’s more pressure with the .223.”

Someone handed him the roll of packing tape. He and Hannah both added several layers of the plastic binder to the end of the pipe.

“Wish we had duct tape,” muttered Hannah.

“Wishes and shit,” replied Jesse. “Your turn.”

Hannah took aim at one of the things and sighed out a breath. She pressed the trigger and was rewarded with a loud pop of the rifle. The round hit one of the ghouls in the chest, not even the one she was aiming at. It staggered and turned away, exposing the new hole in its back, just to the right of the spine. Swearing, Hannah tried again while Jesse began to berate her in a friendly fashion for her miss.

“You could have at least paralyzed it,” needled Jesse.

Taking aim again, Hannah breathed and squeezed. The shot hit the one she had been aiming at, its head snapping back as the top of the skull shattered. The thing fell to the pavement. The round went through the head, hitting another behind it and entering the things forehead above the nose. All were surprised to see the second ghoul fall on top of the first. Behind her, someone gave a short couple claps that seemed to echo above the moans of the undead. Everyone held their breath as the undead stopped moving, then continued to surge at the church. There was a collective exhale and someone growled out a warning to the clapper.

“Jesus,” muttered Jesse. “We goin’ to make this a competition shoot?”

“Luck,” muttered Hannah, settling in behind the rifle.

“Yeah, I suppose that only counts as one for one since you missed the first shot clean.”

“I didn’t miss clean,” protested Hannah, her words muffled by the stock of the carbine. “I just didn’t hit right on.”

“In this game, right on is all that counts,” said Jesse firing.

Another Zombie fell.

“So we’re keeping score?” said Hannah firing and meeting his hit.

“I’ll do it,” said Chelsea.

“What’s the prize?” asked Hannah.

Jesse grinned at her. “If we use my trophy you win either way.”

“Oh, Christ,” said Hannah rolling her eyes. She shot and hit. Jesse did as well. “The loser has to heat as much water for a bath as the winner wants.”

“Hot bath?” repeated Jesse. “You’re on.”

They began to shoot in earnest. The mood became festive as the two began to trade shots, missing and hitting, joking about the prize and the failures of the other to hit. The shooting was attracting the attention of the undead, who seemed to be searching for the source of the sudden demise of their fellows. In the steeple of the church, the crowd was being rotated to allow the congregation to observe the antics of the shooters. The music had stopped, which helped to keep the Zombies from swarming so much at the doors and allowed Hannah and Jesse safer shots. Hannah suspected that they had run out of arrows, bolts, for the crossbows since there had been no further shooting from that venue. The double hits of earlier were now more difficult to make since the ghouls were now wandering in search of the new threat, or so it seemed to Hannah, and the things were not stacked up like they had been. They swapped magazines several times until Jesse called a halt to the shooting. He pointed to the smoking pipe at the end of his barrel.

“Do we have enough to restuff? It’s getting loud. The Zombies are starting to look around some.”

Hannah pulled in her own rifle and noticed that the plastic was heating up to the point it seemed pliable. She set it against the roof and had someone run down for the last of the bronze and SOS pads. Jesse began to untape his end, freeing the pad and the wool inside, shaking the shredded filaments out of the suppressor. Hannah did the same, concerned about the amount of burnt material in the tube.

“Is this safe?” she asked.

“It’s as safe as it can be. The .223 has more punch than the .22, even a 9mm and .45, but I think we’ll make it long enough to finish this crowd off.” He gauged the number of undead left. “We’ve got about thirty more, not including those that are trapped inside one of the houses and the basement here. I think those will be cleaned up pretty fast once we’ve got these done.”

“How many have we shot?” wondered Hannah.

“Ninety-two,” informed Chelsea.

“Damn,” breathed Isaac.

“Good shootin’,” confirmed Owen. “Ya’ll’re about two to one right now on ammo to kills. That’s better’n most trained military can do.”

“We’re sittin’ above our target and they’re pretty slow,” said Jesse.

“True, but most military pass rifle qualifications with a just passin’ score of 80 percent. And those are stationary paper targets and static firing positions.”

“And where’d you pick that information up?” asked Jesse.

Owen gave one of his slow smiles. “Military channel.”

Shaking his head and laughing, Jesse turned to the stair well where Stacy was returning with the packing and towing David behind her. She looked angry, her eyes were blazing and her mouth was set in a thin line. She had her hand on her own rifle. David was carrying a MRE packet and eating the contents with relish. Stacy thrust the packing at Jesse and Hannah and stepped away as David moved up beside them and peered over the edge at the bodies that lay on the roadway. He nodded thoughtfully and chewed.

“Been busy,” he observed, kicking at the litter of brass on the roof top. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“You seemed pretty firm on not being disturbed when you locked the door behind you,” noted Jesse, beginning to stuff the tube. Hannah grabbed a portion for her rifle and did the same.

David peered at the makeshift additions and nodded. “Good idea, there, you come up with that?” he asked Jesse.

“She did,” indicated Jesse to Hannah.

“This little thing?” said David leaning back to look at her. “More to you than meets the eye.”

“That’s all you’ll get to see, too,” muttered Hannah.

“What’s that?”

“What meets the eye,” said Hannah, looking up at him. “You’ll only get to see what you see.”

He gave her a tight smile. “Not very neighborly.”

“Don’t intend to be.”

He spit out over the edge and made to grab her rifle. “You mind if I try it?”

Pulling the carbine out of his reach, Hannah nodded. “I mind.”

“They have a competition going,” said Chelsea. “You’ll mess it up.”

“Oh yeah?” David settled in near the shooters. “What’s the score?”

“I’ll tell when they’re done,” said Chelsea.

They taped up the ends of the rifles, and settled in for more shooting. The festive mood had evaporated though, and the two settled in for serious shooting, firing as fast as they could line up the sights and score hits. Each swapped out magazines and continued to fire. David sat nearby, eating the rest of the MRE and crumpling the packaging with each course finished. Hannah struggled with her concentration, missing one several times before Jesse growled at her to calm down.

“He’s tryin’ to make you fuck up, girl, take a breath and make the shot,” he hissed at her from behind his rifle.

Focusing on the sights, Hannah did as he instructed, inhaling and exhaling several times until she had blocked out the noise that David was making behind her. She chose the farthest walking undead and squeezed the trigger, feeling the satisfying push of the rifle against her shoulder and then the sound of the bolt working to pick up the next round. Beyond, the zombie fell to the pavement. Just as suddenly, there were no more targets. Hannah uncoiled from behind the rifle, slowly standing to let the blood flow freely to her legs and feet. The others were laughing and congratulating them on their shooting as they stood. David was looking darkly at Hannah and Jesse, then tossed his final wrapper to the roof top.

“Good shooting.” He motioned to the buildings. “Now comes the hard part, getting them out of the buildings.”

“With the guns you’ve got stashed, we ought to be able to do that pretty easily.”

“My guns?” said David astonished that Jesse knew about them, and would mention them.

“Well, I figure since this is a community, you wouldn’t have a problem loanin’ some of them to their former owners to help out. You know, take some of the burden off’a you.”

David looked around at the others, who were staring at him in a hard gaze that would have made Hannah uncomfortable if she had been the object of that stare. He shrugged. “Not much ammo, is all, their pretty worthless without ammo.”

Jesse motioned to the empty cases on the roof. “We might be able to spare some to see them through.”

Suddenly realizing that he was among a hostile audience with the members of the crew led by Jesse and Hannah and that Jesse was painting his objections into a corner, David shrugged. “Sure, why not? I can only use so many, right? It’s all for the good of the community. Like sharing food, you know?”

“Yeah I know, that’s why I didn’t shoot you for taking that MRE without asking,” said Jesse from behind an icy smile.

The statement took David aback and he struggled to regain footing. “That’s a little harsh,” he said from behind a forced laugh.

“Okay,” shrugged Jesse. He turned to the others. “Let’s get some guns for those people over there. Owen, you still have those ones from the store, right?”

“Waitin’ to be returned.”

Jesse looked back at David. “Lead on to your lair, I’ll follow.”

“I’ll bring ‘em out,” snarled David.

“I’ll help,” stressed Jesse.

Isaac stepped up as well. “Might need some help to carry them, I’ll go with you.”

“Sure,” agreed Jesse. He motioned to Hannah. “Get our shit together. And make sure that it gets back to the cars.”

“We leaving?”

“We’re goin’ to see what the attitude of these people is once they’re armed again, and then go from there. If we can break the hold this guy has on them, I think we’ll all be better off.”

Hannah motioned for Stacy to stay back with her and told her what they were going to do. The other woman nodded and grabbed Chelsea and Carolina, informing them as well. Ted stood nearby, listening as they spoke, then stepped up to them.

“Am I a part of this?” he asked.

Grinning, Hannah nodded. “Sorry about that.”

“Sure, I just hate feeling left out.”

Chelsea patted his arm. “I know what you mean. Stick with me though and I’ll make sure they don’t forget you’re around.”

Ted grinned at her, shaking his head at the littler girl. “Okay, Sparky, I will.”

Chelsea seemed to like the nickname. She stopped Hannah. “Oh, Jesse won.”

Hannah thought about all the buckets of hot water the man was going to demand and suddenly felt very tired. “Shit.”

“If you hadn’t missed all those times at the end, you might have beat him.”

“Might have?”

“It was close,” said Chelsea sagely. “I could have beat him.”

“I’ll bet.” Hannah ruffled the girl’s hair. “Okay. Let’s get these buildings clear.”

They headed down the stairs in the wake of Jesse and Isaac. Hannah glanced back to see Owen standing at the edge of the roof and looking down. Beyond him, the church doors were slowly opening and the people inside peeked out at the destruction in the streets. Owen didn’t seem to notice them staring at him on the roof and giving him small waves. She stopped to stare at him, afraid because for a moment, he looked like he was getting ready to jump. His attractive face was clouded with a mix of emotions that looked to range from fear to sadness and loss. He seemed shake himself and stepped back, noticing that Hannah was watching him. Giving her a slow smile that brightened his momentarily darken face, Owen pushed his cowboy hat back off his head and rubbed his curly hair, replacing the hat.

“Long way down,” he told her, his green eyes searching her face for something that only he could find, stepping past her and into the stairway.

Hannah wondered how close the man had come to finding out as she followed him.
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Post by doc66 » Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:41 pm

When she reached the hallway, Hannah found everyone standing around the door that was the entry to David’s room. He was protesting that he did not need the others to help him bring out the firearms. As David stood in front of the door, she was reminded of an old movie scene, one in which the villagers had finally figured out that the scientist was mad and they were going to destroy his lab. David himself appeared as if he expected a lynching to occur at anytime and was resting his hand on the stock of the shotgun. The semi circle around him was closing in and the mood violent, now that there was Jesse to lead them from the front. Owen peeled off to stand next to the wall and watch the proceedings. Hannah stood near him, waiting to see what was going to happen.

“You people don’t need in here,” David was saying, his face flushing red with anger. “This is my place and I expect some privacy to be honored.”

“We don’t care about your porn,” shot Anne, emboldened now that the numbers were firmly on her side. “We just want to get the guns and get them back to the people that can use them.”

“I traded for those guns, fair and square,” said David. “Those are mine. The people gave them to me for those crossbows ‘cause they didn’t have no ammo for them.”

“That or you took it for something else,” sneered Anne. “You’ve been working this town since you got here and it’s time for you to put up some effort to help instead of taking everything from these people.”

Pushing his way towards Anne, David began to yell at her. “Taking? What the hell are you talking about? I’ve been giving back, I made those crossbows and arrows for them, I showed them how to shoot the damn things. It’s not like I’ve been just stealing shit for nothing in return. They’ve gotten what they’ve needed.”

Anne backed away under the storm of his fury. Isaac stepped between the two, and had the wrath redirected.

“You need to step back, punk, or I’ll fucking stomp your ass right through the floor.”

To Hannah’s amazement, Isaac took a step forward, crowding the space that David was claiming. “Go ahead and try mother-fucker,” spat Isaac quietly, “I’ll meet you shot for shot. You haven’t got the guts to stand up to a man.”

“A man?” laughed David, rearing back. “The hair on your ass isn’t enough to cover that boast, you shit. I’ll fucking pound you.”

“Bring it,” challenged Isaac.

With a mean grin at the crowd, David began to step forward.

“Back up,” ordered Jesse, his voice cutting through the air with the sharpness of a knife.

Hesitating, David shot a glance over at Jesse, who was standing with his hands held loosely at his side. Not knowing what Jesse brought to the table made David pause and reconsider. That, and the realization that if he fought one he’d have the other nine people on him, burned through the fighting fever that had engulfed him. Blinking several times, David seemed to be coming out of whatever rage had made him challenge the group. Slowly, he started to nod his head.

“This ain’t over.” He pulled a key out of his pocket and dropped it on the floor. David pushed through the gathered and walked to the stairs, knocking Hank aside as he stood to move the chair he had been sitting in. David walked down the stairs and picked up the ramp, placing the plank across the opening.

“Hey, man, there’s like a bunch of deadheads down there,” said Hank as he picked himself up off the wall where he’d fallen.

“Fuck off, stoner,” glowered David as he stepped across the plank and to the stairs. The shotgun boomed as the first of the undead staggered toward him. They heard the weapon work as he racked the slide and fired again. Then there was the sound of running feet as David made for the door.

“I hope he gets bit,” muttered Anne.

Jesse bent and picked up the key, inserting it into the lock. The door swung open onto the room that David had occupied.

They all stepped in. There was a collective intact of breath as they gazed at the interior. The room had several shelves lining the walls and on the shelves were stacks of boxed goods, canned goods and bottles of water and juice. Ammo boxes, precious few of those, but ammo none the less, were next to a line of rifles and shotguns. Handguns had been stacked on one of the shelves along with cleaning kits and cans of powder, shot and bullets for reloading. He had a huge bed set up along one wall, another wall had a long bench against it and a loading press was set up on it. Hand tools were scattered along the surface of the table, two uncompleted crossbows were waiting to be finished. In a barrel were bundles of bolts made from various materials ranging from fishing pole shafts to heavy dowel rods to fit the weapons, waiting to either be fletched or tipped.

The most disturbing thing was pushed into a far corner of the room. David had managed to find a large dog cage, one meant for German shepherds and the like, and bolted it to the wall studs. Inside the cage lay a young woman, naked, her hands and feet bound with rope. Over her head was a hood that obscured her face and blocked out all light. The floor of the cage was lined with old newspaper and soaked with the young woman’s urine. Next to the cage was a yard sized trash bag containing the old papers and a large bucket of water, probably used by David to rinse the young woman off before he abused her. The woman heard them in the room and tried to make herself as small as she could by pressing against the far corner of the cage.

“Oh, Jesus,” breathed Isaac on seeing her. He looked around the room. “That fucker, let’s go kill him.”

He headed out of the room and was stopped by Jesse’s voice. “Stop Isaac, he knows we’re going to be after him, he’ll be waiting. Just calm down for a second until we can go as a group.”

“Look at what he’s done,” stormed Isaac.

“I can see,” said Jesse bending down next to the cage and pulling at the lock. He tried the door key but it would not even insert into the mechanism. “Find me something to pry with.”

Anne knelt down next to the cage near the frightened young woman. She began to speak in low tones to try and calm the woman down. “Hey, honey, it’s okay, we’re going to get you out of here. You’re safe now.”

“We had no idea,” murmured Michelle, taking up a place next to Anne.

Isaac brought a short pry bar from the collection of tools on the bench. Jesse began to work at the lock.

Hannah stepped out of the room and saw that Owen had not moved from his place on the wall. “Did you know what the fuck was going on in there?” she demanded.

“No clue,” Owen said softly. “None of us did.”

“You fuckers let him run this place, torture that girl, and did nothing to stop him? You had him out gunned and out number, and you did nothing?” said Hannah, her fury finding its outlet on Owen. “Step in there and look—look at the food he had stashed away. Look at the weapons he took while you let the townspeople starve and die. Look at that girl in there and tell me you didn’t even suspect anything.”

Owen nodded, as if agreeing with everything she said. “We did nothin’. I did nothin’. I ain’t gonna kill a livin’ human over stupid shit, Hannah.”

“Stupid shit?” she raged. “Look at the girl and tell me that’s stupid shit. Walk in there and smell her fear, Owen.”

“We had no clue—,” he tried to defend.

“Because you did nothing to stop him over ‘stupid shit’,” said Hannah. She stepped up and looked directly into his pain filled green eyes. “One moment of backbone, Owen, that’s all it would have taken. Isaac stepped up to him, he fronted him off. Why the fuck couldn’t you?”

“Guess I’m too much of a coward,” decided Owen, pushing off the wall. He looked down a Hannah, anger in his eyes now. “It’s easy to be tough when you’ve got five other people backin’ you up, girl. When you’re the only one, it’s a lot harder to stand up. No other fucker in this town had the balls to back my play, except maybe Hank. When you got that kind of support, it’s sure as hell easy to just stand back and let it ride. Those Jesus people out there, they’re waitin’ for the Second Comin’ and they think this is it. They don’t give a shit. I’m sorry that girl in there had a rough time, but it ain’t because of what I didn’t do, Hannah. I’m alone in this.”

Owen pointed out past the walls. “Who the fuck do you think cleaned up this town of those dead fucks? Who do you think was the one to go out and get rid of them when those good Christians holed up in their church and prayed and sang? David? That bastard locked himself away until it was clear while I risked getting bit, risked my life to get food and kept these assholes alive so they could preach their doom and gloom. Those two assholes who went with me to the store, they went because I shamed them into it. Before that, I was the ONLY ONE who left the safety of this fucking bump in the road.’

Stepping away from Hannah’s shocked expression; Owen lifted the MAC and started down the hallway. “Don’t’ fuckin’ assume you got me pegged, girl. You know nothin’ about what I been through.”

Hank stared as Owen stormed down the stairs and across the plank. “Pull this up,” order Owen. “I’d hate for anythin’ to get you.”

Hank scurried down the steps and started to drag the plank back. Hannah followed him and stopped him long enough to hurry across.

“Where you going?” asked Hank, unsure of what to do.

“To watch his back,” said Hannah. “Pull it up.”

“What about everyone else?”

“Tell them Owen and I went to clean up the mess.”

Hank shrugged and dragged the plank back. He hesitated and then trotted back up the stairs. Hannah took the steps two at a time to catch up with Owen. She saw him moving across the hallway, the MAC up and little puffs of smoke coming out to the end of the suppressor as he began to drop the remaining Zombies in the building. She could see that the back door was open from David’s exit and had a bad feeling about the thing being left that way. Owen was oblivious to the danger of ambush, and kept moving, dropping ghouls with each pull of the trigger. When he reached the door, Hannah, still several feet away, called for him to stop.

The sound of her voice made him hesitate and that slight pause saved his life. The door frame was torn apart by a shotgun blast and the boom that followed split the air. There was another explosion as Owen fell back away from the doorway. Hannah began to shoot out the opening with her carbine, the .223 rounds rushing out into the fall air and beyond. She leaned against the wall to get a better angle on David who was entrenched by a dumpster and waiting for his next shot at Owen. Hannah sent several rounds into the side of the barrier, the bullets sparking and whining around David, making him pulled back to avoid the bullets that had already found his position. He fired again, his range shortened by the buckshot he carried, but the pellets hummed around Hannah, causing her to duck back.

Owen scrambled on his hands and knees between the now dead bodies to escape the crossfire. Hannah banged out another half dozen rounds to cover his retreat, making David dive away.

She felt the hands just as she smelled the dead.

The Zombie appeared out of an adjoining doorway, brought by the scent of warm blood and the noise of the shotgun. The low moan of the dead things lungs sounded in Hannah’s ear. Hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her toward the things mouth. Leaning away, Hannah caught the putrid breath of the death even as it started to descend on her. She had taken off her leather jacket to work on the silencers and had not put it back on. Her only protection was the thin layer of cotton t-shirt. The grey teeth grabbed a mouthful of her trapez and the pressure of the bite was excruciating. Screaming, Hannah dropped down and away from the thing, her only thought was to escape the powerful jaws of the ghoul. The motion broke the hold of the monster, and the ghoul clamped firmly down on her t-shirt less any of the skin beneath. She was suspended just off the floor, hanging by the powerful jaws of the Zombie by her shirt. In a moment of ridiculous thought, Hannah wondered why she had followed Owen. The odd reflection made her gasp out a laugh and she gathered her senses and gripped the AR tightly, determining she should attack. Trying to turn to face the threat, Hannah found she was caught in the cloth of the shirt, which rose above her face, blocking her view of the Zombie that held her. It clutched at her still, the thing trying to free its mouth of her shirt, growling and snarling with inhuman breath from empty lungs.

She swung the rifle, only to have it get caught on the things body as she tried desperately to shoot at it. Jaws snapped at air and the t-shirt fell, releasing her to fall the rest of the way to the floor. The impact, though short, caused Hannah to wince. Hannah rolled away from the ghoul that attacked, escaping its clutching hands. She came to a knee to see the thing fall with a new hole in its forehead.

Snapping a look over her shoulder, Hannah saw Owen had fired from the ground, the MAC raised up to take the shot to save her. The doorway was darkened by the hulking shape of David and his shotgun. Hannah yelled for Owen to duck, for what reason she did not know, and dragged the carbine around to spit rounds at the man. David managed to fill the hallway with a spray of shot, some of which hit Owen, some hitting Hannah in the left forearm and leg, wounds she did not notice in her own haste to get shots off. Her bullets hit the door post near the man’s head and he dove back out into the open air.

Owen cried out in pain on feeling the buckshot eat into his shoulder, falling to the floor to roll onto his back and try to bring the MAC to bear. The empty doorway greeted him. He hissed in pain and struggled to his feet. Hannah forced herself up as well, hearing the groan of yet another undead from the doorway. Turning to met the newest threat, Hannah was becoming frustrated by the two front battle. She banged out several rounds at the thing, hitting it in the chest and head as well as chewing up the doorframe. The bolt locked back and she dropped the AR in favor of the Glock.

Owen dragged himself to the door and pushed the MAC ahead of him as he staggered through the opening. There was no welcoming shot from David as he exited. The stairs were coming alive with the sound of the others charging down them. Hannah could hear Jesse shouting for Hank to hurry with the plank to bridge the gap in the stairs. She swept the opening for more undead, but was met with nothing that presented a threat. Hissing at the pain in her leg and arm, Hannah limped to the exit and staggered outside to follow Owen. She saw him moving again, shooting the hapless Zombies that surged toward him. Beyond, Hannah could see David as he opened the doors to the companion’s vehicles, swearing loudly in frustration as he discovered there were no keys in the ignitions. David leveled the shotgun at Owen, then hesitated when a decaying ghoul turned toward him, its arms reaching for the warmth of his flesh.

Seeing Hannah lurch from the building with the Glock in hand, David gave a curse and spun away, running parallel with the building toward the open road. He dodged several Zombies in the process, monsters that fell to Owen’s precision shooting. The MAC suddenly clacked empty and Owen dropped the weapon to the end of the sling and freed pistols with each hand. He was suddenly a dervish, dodging, moving and shooting, dropping the dead with each press of the trigger. Hannah had to stop and watch in amazement as the handsome man acted out his personal dance that left a tangle of bodies in his wake. When one pistol was fired dry, he fluidly holstered the weapon and drew a third, barely missing a beat. Just as quickly as he had started his deadly ballet it was over. Owen stood still for a long second, his sharp gaze sectioning the area around him, looking for the next threat, which failed to appear.

Hannah looked as well, noticing that David had disappeared. She heard a shout and then the sound of a vehicle starting. Hannah and Owen both moved to the sound of the engine and rounded the corner in time to see David bent over the wheel of a sedan that belched grey smoke when it passed.

For a moment, Hannah thought about shooting the roaring vehicle, but dismissed the urge as frivolous. Owen calmly reloaded the pistols and the MAC as he watched the car disappear.

Hannah felt the pain of the buckshot in her arm and leg, and the possible bite on her shoulder; she sank to her knees and pulled at her t-shirt, afraid of what she might find beneath the torn cotton. She was greeted with an angry red half circle that was swollen and beginning to bruise, but the skin was not broken. Letting out a thankful sob, Hannah buried her face in her hands and began to cry.

She felt the presence of someone standing over her. Looking up and wiping the tears from her eyes Hannah’s gaze fell on first the blood running down Owen’s fingers and then the expression on his face.

“You okay?” he asked.

She touched her shoulder, feeling the pain of the lead in her arm. “I thought I was bit.”

He gave her a deprecating smile. “I thought you were too.”

“You come over here to shoot me?”

“I don’t shoot people,” said Owen, collapsing to the pavement beside her.

Hannah gave him a disparaging laugh. She looked away as Jesse and the others ran up.

“What happened?” he demanded.

“David got away,” said Hannah, feeling the blood of her wounds run down her skin.
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Post by Tetra Grammaton Cleric » Sun Nov 18, 2007 6:09 pm

w00t! Owen is in da house!
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Post by Loquinho » Wed Nov 21, 2007 7:34 pm

So... are there more chapters to come, or is Hannah still being written?
"[Girl], don't you ever stand for that sort of thing. Someone tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back."
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Post by doc66 » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:34 pm

The entire story is finished. I just have to get it posted. Check out Owen and Cole for the follow ups to Hannah. Owen first BTW. Hannah was the beginning.

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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:29 pm

They really needed a doctor, or someone who knew how to dig buckshot out of bone. According to Jesse, one of the .32 caliber pellets was lodged in the bone of Hannah’s shin. Hannah was high and drunk, a perfect combination to be since Isaac was holding her leg, Hank her waist and another man, she couldn’t remember his name, was leaning on her shoulders, which hurt as well since the Zombie bite was turning into a big black and blue bruise that covered her shoulder. As Hannah lay there, she decided that they really needed someone who knew anything at all about medicine, since Jesse had dug into her with a pair of tweezers and a sharp paring knife. Rolling the dowel rod between her teeth, Hannah grimaced, biting back a scream as Jesse began to sew up the fifth and according to him, final bullet wound. She was glad she was stoned.

Owen had gone first, having a total of four pellets taken out of his shoulder. He was laying on his stomach, watching as they finished up on Hannah, while Anne provided clean rags to wipe away the blood and the 4x4 gauze pads to cover the wounds. When Jesse announced he was finished, Hannah spit the dowel out of her mouth.

“I fucking hate you,” she said and then allowed herself to pass out.

When she came too, it might have been hours, or just a few minutes, she found herself on a comfortable flat surface with a cover over her. Using her good arm, Hannah lifted the sheet and peeked at her condition. She was wearing a pair of shorts and nothing else. Hannah thought about the men who had been standing over her and groaned, the noise revealing that she had a massive headache to go with all the other aches and pains. She let the sheet fall over her semi naked body.

“Perverts,” she muttered.

“Yes,” came Owen’s voice, “it was quite the scene. You work out a lot?”

Rolling her head in the direction of his voice, Hannah focused on where own lay not far away, leaning on his good shoulder. “If you want to see more, you’ll have to close your eyes and dream about it.”

“Ouch,” drawled Owen. “You feelin’ a bit peaked?”

“Peek-ed?” repeated Hannah. “What the fuck is peek-ed?”

“Peaked,” corrected Owen. “It’s a southern thing, means unwell, not feeling good; peaked.”

Gauging her hurts, Hannah nodded. “Yeah, I’m peaked.”

“Understandable.” Owen slowly swung his legs out of the bed. He was wearing a pair of boxers. His body was pretty much as Hannah had imagined. She closed her eyes as if in pain and sighed. Beside her, she heard Owen stand. “You want me to find you some clothes?’

“Please.”

She opened her eyes and watched as he began to dig through some backpacks that Hannah recognized. “The blue one, that’s mine.”

He opened it and pulled out a pair of jeans and sweats. Holding them up he debated. Hannah indicated the sweats. She didn’t feel like fighting with the jeans at the moment. Absently, she wondered what condition her canvas hiking pants were in. She hoped Jesse had pulled them off and not cut them up; Hannah liked the extra pockets and the protection they gave her. Owen freed a t-shirt and eased over to Hannah’s bed. He sat heavily on the edge of the mattress, holding the clothing out to her. She reached for them, but found that the shoulder was almost too sore to move and the other arm had knifes of pain shooting up it from the buckshot wounds. Swearing Hannah lay her throbbing head back on the musty pillow and let a tear fall from her eyes.

“Need help?” asked Owen.

“Yes, I fucking need help.”

“You swear a lot more when you’re mad,” observed Owen, standing and moving to her side. He eased an arm under her shoulders. “On three.”

Counting, Owen helped her sit up, the sheet falling away from her body. Owen grinned. “This is a moment for my dreams,” he said, turning away slightly after a quick focus on her breasts.

“Fuck you, Owen,” snarled Hannah, struggling to get her feet to the edge of the bed.

“You really didn’t mean that--.”

Hannah considered for a second. She thought about when she’d first seen him on the road, and how his green eyes drew her in. Hannah considered telling him that she did, but only after a month of healing and several baths, but decided against it. “Just help me.”

Owen bunched up the t-shirt so that all she had to do was slip her arms into the proper holes. He held the shirt for her as she eased her arms into the short sleeves, then gently raised the fabric over her head and down around her neck. He slipped the t-shirt over her body, smiling as he pretended to move it way out to cover her breasts. Hannah gave a pained laugh at that, shaking her head and telling him only in her dreams. On reaching her hips, Owen hesitated a moment letting his hands rest on her waist for a second before leaning back with an embarrassed grin. He slipped the sweats over her battered legs, making sure her feet were out of the legs of the pants and then helped her stand so that he could pull them over her hips and tied them at her belly. Giving an experimental pull on the drawstring, he smiled.

“That’ll keep you safe.”

“From who?”

“Not me,” he admitted. “Sorry.”

Hannah sat back on the edge of the bed while Owen looked for his own clothing. While he looked, Hannah cast her gaze around the room they were in. It was one of the rooms in the two story building. The tall ceilings and the windows told her that. She didn’t remember exploring this room, but that meant nothing; they had been pretty busy since they first stepped into the place. The stale odor of marijuana indicated that it was probably the room Owen and Hank had shared. Hannah saw that her weapons and BOB had been placed close to the bed in case the need for them arose. That made her smile, knowing that Jesse or Chelsea was the one who had thought to put them there. Her attention was drawn to Owen who gave a small shout of relief. He found his jeans and cowboy boots, eased into them and then searched for a shirt, finding a green t-shirt with a Phish emblem on it that he gave a cursory sniff for freshness. With a shrug, he put it on and reached for his final article of clothing. He stuck his cowboy hat on his curly hair with a happy smile.

“What’s with the hat?” asked Hannah.

Owen took it off and inspected it for a second, then put it back on. “I’d give you a bullshit story about how it was my dad’s or something, but truth is, I picked it up in a antique store for five bucks. I figure I wear it to set me apart from the Yankees. Kind of a reminder of home.”

“Home being?”

“West-by-God Virginia, near the Virginia border.”

“I don’t remember West Virginia being a cowboy state,” mused Hannah. “Aren’t you known as the Mountaineers?”

He grinned. “Yeah. But being so close to east Tennessee, I always rooted for the Vols anyway.”

“Not Virginia?” noted Hannah. Owen shook his head. “This place got a name?”

“Squire,” he said. “Six streets in the whole town, I lived off of Cranebrake Mountain Road, just a country boy.”

“Why’d you come up here?”

“Jobs, the great drain on the population in West Virginia, no jobs. We have so few people we have to import football players for our college teams.”

Hannah gave him the laugh he was looking for. They were interrupted by Jesse and Stacy entering. Stacy was holding her canvas pant, the leather jacket and her boots.

“I see you got dressed already,” she said. Glancing at Owen, who managed to keep a straight face.

“I managed,” said Hannah with a hard look at Jesse. “No thanks to you perv’s who left me naked.”

“It wasn’t done out of anything perverted,” protested Jesse. “It was that, or get blood all over your clothes. Here take one of these. Both of you.”

Hannah and Owen both held out their hands for the big white pills he was proffering. “What is it?”

Jesse looked at the name on the bottle. He struggled with the name and then shrugged. “The directions say it’s supposed to fight infections. Take it.”

“Hell, with all the digging you did on me, I’m surprised you left me with a legs,” groused Hannah, popping the pill in her mouth and washing it down with a sip from a jar of grape juice Jesse handed her. “What kind of infection? I mean, what if it’s for like, Herpes?”

“Doesn’t say Herpes, says ‘post operation’ on it.”

“Well, I guess what you did qualifies.”

“I can put them back,” warned Jesse.

“No thanks,” said Hannah. “What’s been happening since I’ve been down and how long have I been down?”

“Couple hours,” said Jesse. “You’re gonna be real sore--.”

“--I already am--.”

“—yeah, well, we talked to that girl some, or rather Anne did, I listened,” informed Jesse, taking up a seat in a ladder backed chair that had clothes in it, which he dumped on the floor. Stacy took a place on the end of the bed. “Turns out she’s a local, David snagged her during one of the Zombie attacks and penned her up. Everybody thought she’d been eaten by the Zombies. Her folks are dead now, so there a couple here in town that are going to take care of her. She’s pretty fucked up.

“On another note, we’ve divvied up the guns and such, David at least did something useful by reloading a bunch of ammo.” Jesse leaned on his knees. “We’re talking about getting the hell out of here, going to the farm house, getting all that stuff and then heading to the Lodge. When do you think you can move?”

“Who is ‘we’,” Hannah wanted to know.

“The whole damn town.”

“How are they going to get there?”

“Turns out there’s a church bus that will haul most of them. We’re goin’ to get the truck from the tracks and another SUV,” explained Jesse. “There’s almost twenty people, Hannah, they’ve got farmin’ experience and some machinin’. We can use their help, and fuck knows they need us.”

Looking over at Stacy, Hannah questioned her. “What do you think?”

“I think that we’ve got to get out of here to some place we can defend and live. This place is worthless,” she said. “Those doors on the church are junk, I’m surprised that they haven’t caved in by now.”

“So what about staying at the farm?”

“I supposed we could,” put in Jesse.

Hannah shrugged it off. “We said we were going to the Lodge, and we should. There’s a hundred rooms or something there, there’s the fenced in yard and such, I think that’s our best bet. We going to get the cattle to take with us?”

“Ted says that they have a cattle hauler that will hold six or eight, dependin’ on how we pack them in. The Toyota has a hitch, and there’s a farm truck that will haul it at the farm, if we can get it goin’.” Jesse sighed. “We’d have to get the straw and hay, the grain. There’s a lot to do.”

“When do we start?” asked Owen, finally joining the conversation.

“The general conscious is to leave as soon as possible. These people are as ready to get out of here as we are.”

Stacy cut in. “They’ve got a scanner and have heard the militia talking about the town here.”

“Why,” asked Hannah, suddenly concerned, “would they care about this town?”

“David,” muttered Owen.

Jesse nodded. “We found a handheld in his stuff. He might have been talking to them before all this. But he knows they existed, everyone here did. He might have gone over to them.”

Feeling the wind leave her lungs, Hannah leaned against the wall that the bed was against. “Shit.”

“If we can get the stuff from the farm, we stand a chance against them,” said Jesse. “we can get the town’s people to fight with us, we can arm them with something other than shotguns and finish this if it comes to that.’

“You think it will?” asked Hannah.

“Don’t you?”

She sighed. “God, this is like one of those stupid westerns--.”

Owen laughed.





Hannah limped alongside Stacy as she carried clothing to the bus. All the vehicles they were taking were parked in a line behind the bus, with only the Expedition in the front. They had made the decision to leave the Toyota and the van behind; choosing instead to take SUV’s, the Expedition and a Chevy Suburban, and a big crew cab pickup truck. Isaac and Stacy had protested a little on leaving the van, but Jesse had pointed out that they had been lucky not to need four wheel drive so far, and that the windows of the vehicle were all shot out, providing them with little protection. All of their belongings were transferred to the waiting vehicles and the box had been taken off the Toyota and put on the Expedition, which had a rack.

Stacy adjusted the bags she was carrying, grumbling that she had not signed up to be a pack mule. Since Hannah couldn’t carry much other than a rifle, she had been elected to play guard. Stacy had joked that with Hannah’s bum leg, she was really bait to give the others time to escape should more undead appear. Hannah had not found that comment funny, since it was more true in fact, if not practice.

The bus was a big gas fueled Blue Bird over 20 years old. The seats were torn, the windows dusty and hard to open. The church had painted it white and green. On top it had a long rack for carrying luggage or house boats, Hannah supposed that what ever they thought would fit on the rack went up there. The middle portion of seats had been taken out and Jesse had them put up chain link fencing from ceiling to floor to hold the items they wanted to take with them, mostly the food they had left including the items horded by David, clothing and a few personal items. The fencing had been scavenged from the preachers backyard and attached to 2x4’s which were bolted in place. The aisle was left between the fencing, with six seats at the rear and six more at the front. They’d managed to get the bus running, it was surprisingly easy to do, considering it sat in a sea of weeds that jutted from the hubs, and moved it to the street, where it was now the center of activity.

The last of the men from the town, all four of them, were busily lashing hand tools, farming implements and other items to the roof racks, secure in plastic boxes or similar items to keep them from falling off the bus roof. They were busily applying what remained of the fencing over the windows of the bus as well, covering the windshield and the drivers sliding door first. What was left over was going to be a hanging curtain over the accordion door, attached to lash point when the door was closed. If they had more left, they would try and cover the side windows as well. The whole scene reminded Hannah of the old TV show “The A Team”, with all the improvising going on.

Two plastic 55 gal drums were being rolled into the bus through the rear door to hold the gas that they could drain from the tanks of the vehicles they were leaving behind, Red, one of the local men, had rigged a vacuum pump to get the fuel flowing into the various gas cans they had. Since the adults were busy with the moving, this job was left to the children under the protection of Owen and Hank, which Hannah felt was akin to letting the irresponsible lead the unresponsible, but Chelsea was with them. Isaac and Jesse had the task of directing the women on what they felt was necessary to bring with Anne running interference along with the preacher’s wife who had survived the attacks. It was hard to get people to leave behind heirlooms and mementos and Hannah knew how they felt, having had to leave many things of her own behind when they had left her apartment just a week or so before.

Had it only been a week? wondered Hannah. It seemed like much more time had passed. Maybe it had, she wasn’t sure. Stacy dumped the bagged clothing inside the cage set aside for the belongings of the townspeople and a woman inside the cage was stacking everything so that it would fit. The cage on the other side was being reserved for the items from the farm house. The cage was nearly full. The woman grabbed the bags that Stacy had brought, piled them in a spot then stepped back.

“We’re about done here,” she commented, then gauged the long shadows. “We better be about done for the night.”

Hannah agreed. She was feeling very tired and beat up. It had been a long day, and Hannah wished she had let them talk her into resting after the gun fight, then the rough surgery of the day before. The good thing was they had not heard any disturbing traffic from the militia base camp. The general consensus was David had not gone over to them. Hannah was not so sure. Either way, they needed to complete the move as soon as possible. Jesse climbed in through the back door, directing the placement of the gas barrels.

“If we put them there,” protested Pete, the skinny man they had met on the first day, “we won’t be able to get them out once they have fuel in them.”

“I understand that,” agreed Jesse. “I don’t plan on moving them. What we’ll do is put the feed hose through the window, pull the vehicle up that needs gas and top off that way.”

“What about the smell?” asked Pete, “venting the fumes?”

“Crack the windows,” said Jesse. “I don’t plan on having to go very far anyway.”

Pete sighed. “What if we have to?”

It was Jesse’s turn to make an exasperated noise. “Pete, how did you people last this long?”

“What?”

“Did you argue with everyone about everything?” Jesse held up a hand to stay the other man’s protest. “Listen, when we talked last night, you people agreed to follow my rules, that means you put me in charge. If I’m in charge, just do what I fuckin’ say. I’ve been pretty patient with you today, now I’m losin’ my cool. Just put the damn thing where I told you.” Jesse looked at the woman. “How we doin’ Paula?”

Paula, who had been quietly listening with an expressionless face, broke into a frown. “I can’t get much more in there. Is there more stuff coming?”

“A little. I think Sue’s got everyone on the same page,” said Jesse. Sue was the preacher’s wife. Red and Jeffery appeared, muscling the blue barrels on board.

“Where’d ya want the barrels?” asked Red, casting a glance over the space they had. Red was a big man, a mechanic by trade, who looked as if he could pick up engine blocks with his bare hands. Hannah wondered how he could have let David run things, but knew that with Red’s get-along personality, he would not have said much.

“Up here next to the cage. We’ll strap them to the fencing to keep them from moving around.”

“With gas in ‘em, they ain’t movin’ much,” said Red, picking up the barrel and carrying it over the seats to the place indicated. He went back and did the same with the other barrel. He was just in time as the kids arrived, carrying the gas cans with the scavenged fuel. Hannah did a quick count and saw that they all carried two cans apiece, for a total of 28 cans, about half of them being five gallon cans. Owen set the ones he was carrying down.

“All full, but this is all the gas we have, about 90 gallons,” he calculated.

“Start dumping,” ordered Jesse. “I want to move out of here by night fall.”

“Why are we moving at night?” asked Pete. “Why not just get a start first thing in the morning. We’re all tired, and we need to rest.”

“Damn it, Pete,” said Paula before Jesse could say anything. “Let them man do the job we agreed to. If he says we move out, then we move out.”

“But night time--,” started Pete.

Red picked up a gas can and began to empty it, filling the air with the sweet toxic smell of the gas, speaking while he did so. “Ya think that the militia and them are quiet ‘cause they got nothin’ goin’ on today?” asked Red. “Think, Pete, they ain’t never been this quiet. They’s up to somethin’.”

Red was one of the ones that was sure David had gone running to the militia.

“I was just thinking about the kids and such,” said Pete meekly.

“Them kids is fine,” assured Red.

Hannah looked at the tired faces of the children assembled and handing up gas cans. There were 12 children, ranging from Ted, the oldest at 15, though more mature over the last few days than any 15 year old needed to be, to Little Mike, age six. Little Mike was sitting on the ground next to his gas cans, staring at the gravel beside the road. Little Mike was the last surviving member of a rather large family. He didn’t speak much to anyone, simply followed and did what was asked. As she looked at the small boy, Hannah had to wonder what kind of people the next generation would be. Hank gave him a rub on the head and picked up the boy’s gas cans, handing them up to Owen who passed them on to Red.

“If all goes well,” said Jesse, “We’ll be spendin’ the night at the farm, then load all that up tomorrow mornin’. Once that’s done, we’ll be at the lodge by mid to late afternoon. We can all rest once we’re in a place that I think we’ll be secure.” Jesse turned to Paula. “Tell everyone to get their Bug Out Bags and all the carry one stuff we agreed on. We’re headed out as soon as everyone is loaded up. Tell the drivers to get to their vehicles. Red, as soon as all that’s loaded, get to the truck.”

The others nodded and went to do as they had been told. Red grunted his response, still pouring the gas and jabbed a thumb at his back, where his own BOB was hanging. The BOB’s were something that Jesse had insisted they all make the night before, using what they could find out of the items at hand. Hannah had grown so used to carrying one, that she barely noticed when she did have it, only when it was not there or when someone else was without one. She was surprised to see Paula pick up her own, made out of a blue Northface book bag and shoulder a little .22 rifle that had been in the items kept by David. One of the things that Jesse planned on doing was to devide up the weapons in a more efficient manner once they had time to do so. Pete sheepishly left before it was pointed out he was without his, although he did have his lever action rifle with him. Owen placed the last can near Red and jumped from the bus, gathering up the kids around him as he did so, telling them to get their things. Everyone had been assigned seating, and Jesse had mixed them together so that the old crew was now responsible for the well being of townspeople, and to make sure they followed direction as put forth by Jesse.

Jesse went up to the driver’s seat of the bus. His gear was piled behind the seat. It turned out that one of Jesse’s many jobs was driving a bus. Hannah wondered just what else the man had done in his life. He had been in the military, driven a bus, been a short order cook, a drug dealer, and ex-convict, a delivery driver, a repo man, a mechanic, the list was almost too long to fathom. It was amazing to her that a man with so much talent had to wait until the end of the world to find what he was really good at; being a leader. She stood next to the seat while he began his pre-start check. He touched each knob and lever, checked the pedals, the two way radio mic hanging on the dash (all the vehicles now had radios of some sort that were on the same channel) and made sure his favorite weapons were within reach, then gave a sigh. After that, he seemed to realize that Hannah was still standing next to him.

“Somethin’ wrong?” he asked.

Hannah shook her head. “No, I was just thinking of a way to thank you.”

Grinning, Jesse shook his head. “I have no clue what you’re talkin’ about, but if you want idea’s on ways to thank me, I’ve got a couple.”

“I’m sure you do,” returned Hannah. She bent and kissed his cheek. “Thank’s for being you, Jesse. I don’t think I’d have made it this far without you around.”

“Aw, hell, girl, you’d’ve made it fine. After all, you rescued me, remember?”

“I suppose I did at that,” agreed Hannah.

“Get the hell out of here,” said Jesse. “I got work to do.”

The radio crackled with Isaac’s call sign, and Jesse picked it up to answer. Isaac had been placed in the steeple with Ted to keep a look out over the countryside.

“Moving out?” asked Isaac.

“Affim,” replied Jesse. “You’re supposed to keep quiet.”

“Movement on the road,” informed Isaac. “Five vehicles. All coming in from the east. They’re about a mile and a half out, moving slow like they’re trying to sneak up on us. We just saw them through the trees. They’re coming off of 39.”

“Get down here,” ordered Jesse. He called to the back of the bus. “Red, you hear that?”

“Loud n’ clear,” said Red.

“Leave those for now and get to the truck.”

The bus shook as Red jumped out of the back door and slammed it shut. Hannah drug herself to the door and threw the latch that locked the door shut. She returned to the front. Jesse grabbed her arm.

“Be careful, girl, I’d hate to lose you to something stupid,” he said.

“You won’t,” said Hannah with more confidence than she felt. Hannah hoped that who ever was in the vehicles stopped and moved closer on foot; that would give them time to escape.

Hannah limped down the steps to the ground, moving aside for the people who were suddenly appearing with their versions of BOB’s and various duffle bags and backpacks, one per person as ordered by Jesse. She urged them to hurry, telling them that people had been spotted on the road coming toward them. This made several of the people swear and confusion spread for a moment until Owen barked out for people do “do what they were supposed to”. The adults calmed and headed for the assigned vehicles. The kids were piled into the bus, a decision that was the subject of much debate the evening before, then it was decided that they needed to ride together if for nothing else, than to support one another through the possibly frightening move they would be taking. Jesse drove the bus, Paula, Anne and a woman named Sue, would ride with the kids, while Owen and a man named Brad would be shooters with Chelsea as back up. The other three women would be shooters if necessary, otherwise their jobs were to load weapons and keep the kids as calm as they could and safe.

Hannah was to ride in the Expedition with Hank, of all people, driving and Pete and a woman named Jessica. It turned out that when Hank wasn’t smoking dope, he was racing open class stock cars and driving in derbies. Hannah hoped that he spent more time racing than in the smash-up derbies. She waved to Stacy and Isaac then dove into the passenger’s seat of the Expedition to find Hank already there, a stale cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

“Where the hell did you find that?” asked Hannah, coughing in the eye watering smoke that filled the cab.

“Man, David had some stashed in his room,” said Hank. “What a fucker, keepin’ the smokes to himself.”

The rear doors opened and BOB’s were tossed in as well as duffle bags. The owners followed, Pete and Jessica climbing in. Jessica was a short woman who might have been heavy before the world had changed, but the lack of food had made her slim down to voluptuous. She reminded Hannah of pictures she had seen of the old 40’s and 50’s actresses, lots of breast and hips. Jessica had on jeans and a heavy jacket to protect against Zombie bites, but the jacket did little to hide her chest, which pushed the jacket away from her body. She had a pile of auburn hair escaping from under the ball cap where she had tried to secure it. She waved a cloud of smoke aside.

“God, I hope my kid’s gonna be okay,” she said.

They had decided to keep people from trying to protect their children rather than help when needed, they would separate families, not a popular decision, but one grudgingly accepted after even more debate and argument. Hannah had been glad the previous night ended.

“Jesse’ll keep them safe,” assured Hannah.

The radio crackled.

“Move, One,” said Jesse. All the vehicles were assigned numbers to keep people from screaming names over the radio. The bus was two and so on.

Hank slapped a kiss on the dash, tossed his cigarette out the window then rolled it up. He put the Expedition into gear and they did.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:31 pm

They drove out of the town in the dusk of the day, the long shadows from the trees lining the road casting gloomy bands across the road. In the distance, Hannah heard what sounded like thunder. She cracked the window and inhaled. The air was moist, scented with rain. The window went up and Hannah was glad for the change in weather. She remembered the rain causing confusion to the undead at her apartment and would be glad for the respite from the constant threat of undead. Settling back in her seat to try and ease some of the discomfort of her wounds, she watched as they passed the very spot where she had seen Owen the first time. Soon they would be nearing the farm, and before that--.

“Slow down,” said Hannah, sitting up as the skies darkened with thunder heads.

“It’s a fucking Zombie, man,” protested Hank. “We’ll just like, drive around it.”

Hannah got on the radio. “Four,” she called into it tersely.

Isaac answered.

“Get up here, four.” Hannah told Hank to stop.

“What for?”

“Just do it, Hank,” said Hannah, opening the door even as the Expedition came to a halt. She pulled free her carbine and stayed in the wedge of the door and observed the undead as it slowly began to stagger away from the ditch. Dirt covered its clothing and bits of grass and twigs were tangled in the things hair, making it look as if a bird had started nesting and then giving up in exasperation at the mobile platform. In its hands was an AR, forgotten with the reawakening if its body. The Zombie looked to have been shot several times, but none of them were the fatal headshots required to keep the dead from rising. Thunder rolled in the distance and the undead staggered to a stop, it’s slack face raising to look at the streaked sky. The wind picked up, blowing across the road and sending debris and dust whirling aside. The truck came to a rest beside the SUV.

Hannah heard other people exit the various vehicles and was aware of some of them walking up to the Expedition. As the truck came to a stop, the Zombie brought its attention back to the motionless vehicles, letting out a moan and began to stagger back toward them. Isaac raced up beside Hannah, afraid of what the problem might be. He asked her in a worried voice what the matter was. Hannah nodded out at the Zombie that was shuffling across the pavement.

“Oh shit,” he said.

Another set of footfalls came up behind them, and Hannah turned to see Stacy and Jesse. Stacy put a hand to her mouth and her eyes instantly began to tear up.

“No--,” she whispered. Jesse grabbed her and she buried her head in his shoulder.

Hannah blew out a long sigh. “I thought you’d want to help him.”

Isaac nodded. He handed her his own rifle and freed the sawed off from the holster that secured it to his leg. Isaac checked the load in the old H&R, breaking the chamber open, identifying the load of 000 buck and snapping it shut. Jesse stopped him.

“You want to use the MP5, it’s silenced?”

Shaking his head, Isaac patted the sawed off. “Naw, I think he’d want me to use Rockatansky. It just seems fitting, you know?”

“Don’t get too close--,” warned Jesse, still with his arms around Stacy.

“I’m going back to the bus,” she whispered and ran from his embrace.

Jesse watched her go. He turned to Hannah before leaving. “Get the AR15 before we get out of here.”

Hannah nodded and turned to watch Isaac.

The man approached the Zombie cautiously, the sawed off held down at his waist as if waiting for the proper moment. For his part, the undead sensed Isaac’s presence, and let out a loud groan in response to the others arrival. The undead began to stagger toward Isaac, its arms starting to reach for him, the AR tangled by its sling around the things left arm. As it raised its hands, the AR dropped from clutching hands to swing off at the elbow. The Zombie ignored the offending weapon, instead relying on what they always did, their clawed fingers and snapping jaws.

Isaac stood in one spot, waiting for the thing to reach him. He was motionless, his feet apart and his eyes fixed on the things own glassy orbs. Hannah felt the presence of someone else and glanced over to see Owen beside her with the MAC 10 raised to fire.

“No,” she ordered him. He stopped and gave her a questioning look. “Let him do it, it’s important.”

She turned back to where Isaac stood.

The Zombie was just a few feet away, it was moaning, its teeth snapping together and the claws grasped at the anticipation of the feast to come. Hannah was starting to wonder if she should have let Owen shoot when the undead lunged at Isaac.

He calmly raised the .410 pistol, thumbing the hammer back as he did so. When the thick barrel was even with the things nose, Isaac trigger Rockatansky, the bellowing noise filling the space that had been the tense silence of Isaac’s stand. The shot tore through the Zombies forehead and nose, leaving a gaping hole where the skull had been. Both eyes bulged under the pressure of the impact, and the undead staggered as the brain suddenly stopped sending what ever hellish signals it had been sending. With a stuttering final step, the thing fell against Isaac, making him step back from the seeping body. Isaac caught his balance and waited until the dead man slid down his chest and to the roadway, the lifeless hands making one final grasp at the living.

Isaac looked down and then opened the sawed off. He calmly dropped the empty shell on the body, reloaded and walked away.

“Thanks,” he said as he passed Hannah, a dark smear of fluid stained his jacket.

She said nothing, but gave him a sympathetic gaze as his tortured eyes slid away from hers. She stepped around the door and walked up to the body with Owen in tow.

“What the fuck was all that about?” questioned Owen.

Hannah bent and picked up the AR15, struggling with the sling for a moment as she tried to avoid looking at the dead face. She freed the rifle and turned away.

“That was about friendship,” said Hannah.

“What?”

Thumbing at the body as she moved back to the Expedition, Hannah indicated the dead man. “That was Isaac’s best friend, Owen, that was Eddie. Eddie stayed behind when he got bit to keep the militia from getting to close to us. I imagine he shot it out with them from the looks of his body. They didn’t have the decency to put one in his head. I figured Isaac would want to, since they were friends and all.”

“Why would he want to kill his best friend?” drawled Owen. “I’d think he’d want someone else to do it.”

Hannah stopped short of the Expedition. “For the same reason I shot my lover in the back of the head, Owen,” said Hannah, remembering Freddy. “Some things, you have to do yourself.”

She pushed passed him and tossed the AR and her own in the front seat. Slamming the door, Hannah ignored Owen as he marched past her door and back to the bus. She leaned her head back against the headrest.

“There’s a farm house on the right sits way back in,” instructed Hannah to Hank. “Take that lane all the way back.”

“What the shit was that?” asked Hank. “Some kinda freaky Zombie Killer initiation?”

“No, that was his best friend,” answered Hannah in a tired voice.

“Wow, that really fucking blows,” decided Hank after a moment of pondering the implications.

“Yeah, better get moving before Jesse yells at you.”

Hank put the SUV in gear once more and pulled out. Hannah closed her eyes and wondered yet again, if they were ever going to be free of the burden that had befallen them.



The rain fell on the roof of the barn with a soothing patter that went well with the guitar sounds played by Ted and Brad, a man Hannah had not noticed until he had walked out of the house with one of the many musical instruments in the old farm house. The big mechanic, Red, sat on the bail of hay with them, his massive hands wrapped carefully around a mandolin, the high sweet notes blending in with the two guitars. She had never heard Kashmir played as a Blue Grass tune, but after tonight, she supposed that anything was possible. The tired and battle weary group was scattered among the hay bails, some snug in sleeping bags, some wrapped in blankets, others just sat and listened. Below them, the cows softly lowed in the stalls, adding to the peacefulness of the atmosphere.

In the loft door sat Hank, passing a pipe to Isaac, Stacy and Carolina. The other, a man from the town named Jeffery, leaned nearby, smoking a pipe of his own, only not as potent as the one the other four were sharing. They had cleared the straw and hay from the opening to provide a place for people to smoke. A pail of water sat at hand to douse the pipes, cigarettes from David’s stash and in case a spark got loose. Jeffery was older, several years older than Jesse, but like Jesse, covered with tattoos and wearing his hair long and his beard longer. Jeffery had turned out to be a hard worker, if a little quiet. He simply did as he was asked and came back for the next task.

They had arrived a few hours ago, just as the first of the big drops of rain fell from the swollen sky. All around the yard and on and near the drive coming in, the dead lay in decaying heaps, slowly bloating from the exposure. On pulling up to the gravel space between the farm house, barn and milking shed, a couple of Zombies staggered toward the vehicles, knowing only that the big steel containers had brought the possibility of food. Hannah, Owen, Jesse, with the MP5, and Chelsea, with Jesse’s improvised silenced CAR, had taken out the beasts with what was becoming disciplined volleys of firepower. In all they ended up destroying a dozen of the things in nearly half the time. The short busty woman, Jessica, stood rear guard over them with Hannah’s 10/22, repacked for silence. Once the five had cleared the yard and surrounding buildings, they gave the all clear, signaling that the others could exit the vehicles into the drizzle. They had exited to the darkening sky, everyone looking up at the house, as the stop for the night. The house had been considered as a location by everyone until they stepped inside.

The place still reeked of the dead and undead. The pungent smell of rot seemed to have permeated the walls and floors, driving all but the most hardy back out into the rain. Jesse had then directed all of them into the barn.

He organized the people into work groups explaining that there were several things that had to be done before they could call the day complete. Standing on a bench to give himself a view of the others, Jesse pointed out that the militia had very likely invaded the town of Coulter, only to find they were no longer in residence.

“With that in mind,” explained Jesse. “We have to assume that it won’t not be long, possibly the tomorrow mornin’, before the group starts lookin’ for us. if they want to find us, they won’t have to many problems.

“There’s a lot of stuff here we need, no just guns and such,” Jesse sent on, capturing the eyes of the group to be sure he had everyone’s attention. “There’s cases of food, there’s seeds for plantin’, many, many things. We want to get the cows in the stalls, so tomorrow mornin’, all we have to do is load them in the trailer. The trailer needs to be hooked up to the truck.” He sighed. “There’s more work to be done that we got time, but if we work together, we can do this.”

“So what’s first?” asked Anne.

“Those of us with stronger stomachs and backs need to get all the food and such out of the basement of the house. It needs to be loaded in the bus,” decided Jesse. “Some of us can be rounding up the cows, maybe a couple of the older kids can do that. I think we need to get the dead bodies away from the house and barn. We’ll hook up a flat bed trailer to one of the trucks and get that done.”

“Why put people out in the rain to do that if we’re going to be leaving?” asked Pete.

“If we need to come back here for somethin’, or we do get to stay longer, I don’t want those things either stinkin’ the place up or providin’ a place for disease incubate.” He looked over the gathered. “Anybody else? If not, well then, Gina, I’ll need you to help me assign jobs, since you know everyone.”

Gina, the preachers wife, nodded and carried herself to the front and begant o point out people and children for tasks. Jesse came up to Hannah and pulled her aside.

“You and Owen need to take it easy, I’m puttin’ you two up in the loft for guard duty.”

“I’m fine,” protested Hannah, locking her jaw as a jolt of pain raced up her leg. In truth, she was sore, hurting from the improve surgery and almost bite.

Jesse shook his head. “Not open to debate, girl. You been shot, your leg’s hurtin’, I saw you limpin’ through that last room in the house, don’t deny it, and I want you up there to keep an eye on things. Watch beck up the road, they’re lookin’ for not only the town, but us, we’ve hurt them twice now.”

“They don’t even know who we are,” said Hannah.

“No, but David does, sort of, and you better believe he’s told ‘em what he knows. What he don’t know, he made up.” Putting a hand on her arm, a motion which made Hannah wince, he grinned at her. “Get up there before I have to carry you.”

“It makes me feel worthless,” she protested.

“Good eyes are more important right now,” he said giving her a gentle push. “Besides, I got all kinds of help.”

Hannah nodded and made her way to the ladder. Jesse pointed to Owen and told him to follow Hannah. While they were getting up in position, Hannah heard Gina approach Jesse with the job list. The loft had two doors at each end of the barn. Big doors that were used to accept the bails of straw or hay that would be stored in the big space through winter. There was a rail and pulley system attached to the main beam of the building for hauling the bails up. One door opened over the drive and parking area of the farm, the other looked out over the cowfield and beyond that, the road. As the made their way to the door that over looked the roadway, Isaac called to them from the loft ladder.

“Jesse says to take this,” he said, holding up Jesse’s scoped bolt action rifle.

Looking at it for a moment, Hannah turned to Owen. “Can you use that thing?”

“Yeah,” said Owen slowly, “I can.”

“Then go back and get it.”

Owen laughed and retraced their steps to take the rifle and a small backpack. He met Hannah by the door just as she was pulling around hay bails to provide a place to rest firearms and others to lean against. He lay the rifle aside and bent to help her.

“You shouldn’t be doin’ this, go sit down.”

“I’m not cripple.”

“No, but your hurt, if you start those things bleedin’, well, we’ll both be gettin’ a tongue lashin’ by Jesse.”

“Tongue lashing,” repeated Hannah. “Is that like peaked?”

“Sit down ‘fore I take a hand to ya,” directed Owen.

She eased herself down against the bails, shedding her BOB and pulling her rifle near. “What’s in the bag?”

Owen kept arranging the bails as he spoke. “Ammo for the ’06, a couple bottles of water and a couple MRE’s in case we get hungry.”

“I don’t think I’ll be that hungry for a while.”

“Never know.” Owen sat down beside Hannah and pulled free a pair of binoculars from the backpack as well. He laid them on the bail in front of them, then followed those with the .30-06 and ammo. He offered Hannah a bottle of water. She took it drank a small portion, capped it then stared out at the rain. Below them, they could hear as the others started to busy themselves with moving the supplies. The vehicles sounded muted in the rain and peoples voices were short, the words falling off so that she could not understand what they were saying, only the tone.

“I hate being up here,” said Hannah.

“That’s ‘cause you’re’a woman.”

“How nice of you to notice,” she said with no small amount of sarcasm. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You know, always got to know what’s goin’ on. Nosey--.”

“Fuck you.” Hannah rolled her eyes at the sky. “Like you’re happy being up here?”

“Hell, yes,” stated Owen, leaning back against the hay and crossing his arms. “Out of the rain, in a warm hay loft with a pretty woman, don’t get better’n this. I could be drunk, but that’d be too much to ask I guess.”

Laughing, Hannah put her rifle on the hay bail. “Drunk. I haven’t had a beer in, God, I can’t remember when. It was with Jesse and Freddy at my apartment.”

“Freddy?” questioned Owen cautiously.

Hannah nodded.

“The lover?”

She repeated the nod, smiling softly. “That’d be him.”

“You care if I ask what happened?”

Hannah thought about it. After the graveside service just a couple days ago, she felt strangely released from that particular guilt.

“No, I guess I don’t. We, me, Freddy, Jesse and Chelsea, were on the road, just left my apartment,” she started out, explaining the drive in the rain, the lack of caution that Freddy had shown driving the rain soaked streets and between the wreckage that he had crashed into. She felt a twinge of anger at Freddy’s stupidity of not looking around before getting out of the truck, but otherwise was at peace with all of it. She finished her story and Owen stared at her for a long moment.

“What?” joked Hannah. “You afraid of me now?”

“No, I’m kinda impressed,” he said. “I’m sure that was tough.”

“It was at the time,” said Hannah. “But I’m okay with it now. We had a little graveside service here a couple days ago, and I put it all to rest there.”

“Just like that?”

“Mostly, yeah.”

Owen nodded and gathered his feet under him. “I’m going to check the other side of the road and field.”

“Yeah, we should probably be at each door anyway,” agreed Hannah.

“Tired of me already?”

“No, just trying to be responsible.”

“Get behind me Satan,” laughed Owen, walking to the other end.

Hannah watched the rain, wondering if she were really done with her mourning or if she was just pushing the feelings deeper to ignore them. After reflecting on all of the events and how she had been feeling as opposed to now, she decided that she was finished. Not to say that in another month, or even a week, she wouldn’t be struggling with a new tragedy in her life, but for the moment, she was content. Sounds came from below, voices that were muffled but seemingly happy. One of them sounded like Owen, but since the tone was light, Hannah didn’t bother to investigate. Out in the field, Hannah saw several of the children herding the cows to the barn under the direction of Ted, who seemed to be using the other kids as two legged herding dogs. She smiled at the kids actions as they moved the cows, struggling in the muddy field to keep the odd cow from running across the field and away from them. She looked up as Owen came back.

“Well?”

“Be glad you’re in here.”

“What’s going on downstairs?” asked Hannah as the kids reached the barn and started shooing the cows inside to the lower stalls.

“Gina and Simone are gonna cook. They’re startin’ up that grill ya’ll pulled in here.”

“Oh? What’s for dinner?”

“Simone is Mexican, I guess, she’s going to make tortilla’s and stuff.”

“Stuff?”

“Whatever Mexicans make,” shrugged Owen.

His response amused Hannah. “Okay, clues?”

“Nope.”

“Fine,” said Hannah, settling in as the sky continued to darken with the sun setting and the deepening rain clouds.

They stayed up there as the bus was loaded, the weapons and ammo redistributed among the company and the proper trailers attached to the vehicles. Jesse had called Hannah from her cozy spot looking over the fields to pair rifles up with ammo and then hand them out to people as he directed. Hannah had to get Owen to help her, since most of the ability to identify what went with which was beyond her limited knowledge. She could put 9mm’s in her Glock, .357’s and .38’s in her Smith and Wesson, .223’s in her AR and .22’s in her Ruger. Owen pointed out some of the rifles that matched each other. There were three of them and they had uncomfortable looking wooden stocks and black metal barrels.

“SKS’s,” explained Owen. “These bullets go with them.” He held up a thing he called a stripper clip. “And they’ll fit those two.” He pointed to the ones Hannah knew were AK 47’s, or something similar.

“These bullets fit those CETME’s,” instructed Owen, tossing a box of .308’s on top of the three rifles. “So do these.”

“But those say 7.62,” said Hannah. She toed one of the boxes near the SKS’s. “So do these.”

“Right, those are 7.62x39, Russian rounds. These are 7.62x51, NATO rounds. The bullet is the same size, but not the case, the part that holds the powder.”

“I figured that one out,” said Hannah so he’d know she was not totally stupid.

The pile of weapons was astonishing. Ted came up to help her and Owen. He told them his father had been buying up firearms from a buddy who gave him at cost deals in exchange for some farm work his father could do since the man had broken his back and was unable to get things done. The man had an FFL, and his father was happy with the exchange, since in reality, he didn’t think the work was worth as much as the man was trading. The man had priced the jobs out, and then offered the trade to Ted’s father. He’d done the same with the cases and cases of ammo. Once all the firearms and ammo were handed out, a rifle and 500 rounds per adult, they took and put the rest in the bus to be distributed later on reaching the lodge. They still had pistols and shotguns not yet given out.

Finally, everyone came out of the rain. Jesse, Owen and Isaac, made sure everyone knew how to operate the weapon they had been given. Hannah knew Jesse was disturbed by the fact they were not going to test each person with the weapon, but under the circumstances, he was going to have to trust them with the responsibility given to them. While they were doing this, Jesse had gotten Simone and Gina to heat large amounts of water for the showers they had devised on their first stay. Everyone pitched in to keep the water hot and the showers going. Those who had been in the town had not showered in close to a month, taking only sponge baths to conserve water that had to be pumped by hand from a well several hundred yards from the town. Hannah and Owen were the last to shower, since they had not been in the rain and mud.

Once everyone was showered and in fresh clothing, Simone began to serve the food. Hot, spicy pozole de frijol, made with some of the stored corn from the basement, arroz con frijoles pintos, Chilaquiles, topped with eggs gathered by the kids and liberally sauced with chilies. Finally, she had Albóndigas made from canned meat and rice. Simone tried to explain everything as she served, but much of it was beyond Hannah’s limited knowledge of Mexican cuisine. She now knew why Owen had simply said, “whatever Mexicans make.”

It was the first real food she had eaten in days. Months.

There was nothing left over after 28 people were finished.

After the dishes were burned (thank God for paper, Hannah would have hated to clean every plate) in the fire pit, they all retired to the loft and slowly were drifting off to sleep. The three pickers had played their last song, some Blue Grass tune that had been more of a lullaby than what she thought of as Blue Grass. Of course her knowledge of Blue Grass was limited to what she heard in a movie score, and even then, it was doubtful as to her ability to name the tune.

She was settling down to drift off, when she felt someone sit near her. Hannah opened one eye and in the darkness, could make out that it was Isaac.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey.” He leaned back in the hay. “I’m pretty baked.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I did it for Eddie, kind of a remembrance.”

“Sure,” agreed Hannah, waiting to see what he was going to say next. He obviously needed to talk.

“You know, we’ve been friends for a long time. 12 years. It doesn’t seem like much when compared to like fifty years, but when you’re 21, it’s a fucking long time.” Isaac sighed. “Long fucking time.”

“Sure seems that way, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. I’m gonna miss the fuck out’a him,” sobbed Isaac, the flood gates breaking open. “We been friends for so long, I don’t know what I’m gonna do without his stupid ass around. He was always doing stuff to make us laugh, always the one who made fun of shit. He was never really serious about anything. When all this happened, he was the one who kept me sane. It was his idea to tote those swords around and cut the heads of the Zombies off. He was the one who backed me up, all the time, when Victor was such as shit to all of us, lying asshole.”

“Victor?”

“Oh, you never met that fucker,” said Isaac. “We were kinda hitting on the same girl. He got her, but they go them, in the end.”

“Who got whom?”

“The Zombies, they got Victor and Lynn. I was sad about Lynn; I could give a fuck about Victor. Eddie’s the one who talked me through Lynn dying. He and Stacy were always fighting. Fucking and fighting, that’s what those two did best.” Isaac was quiet. He seemed to be calming down. “Stacy’s really bummed out. She and Eddie got into a fight before he died. Now she feels like shit.”

“What about you?”

“I feel like shit.”

“You going to make it?”

“I have to, there’s no one left of us really. Stacy, yeah, Carolina’s not one of us, and she’s out there, all not talking and shit.”

“You think she’s really pregnant?”

“Don’t care.”

“You will when she’s ready to pop,” assured Hannah.

“Fuck her, Mark was the best part of that relationship.” Another pause. “I’m stoned. Jesus Christ I'm gonna miss that stupid fucker. 12 Goddamn years. Never be another like him.”

“Yeah, get some sleep,” agreed Hannah. “Long day tomorrow.”

“You mind if I crash here?”

“Nope,” said Hannah, turning back over. “I don’t mind at all.”

She lay awake for some time after, listening to the sounds of the people around her as they slept and the rain falling gently on the roof of the barn. She would be glad to finally get to their destination, what ever it might be.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:33 pm

Hannah woke up to an arm draped over her. For a moment she wondered where she was; she was comfortable and warm, the weight of the arm was comforting. There was a brief second that the events she had been living were a dream, and she was safe in the bed of her apartment, and the man she was sleeping with was someone who made her happy. Then the sound of the rain, the smell of the hay, and a cow lowing came to her, reminding her of where she lay. She then knew that the arm belonged to Isaac. She stayed where she was for a moment, remembering his intoxicated state of the night before, she knew that the arm was more than likely a reflex, rather than a result of anything that had happened. Slowly unzipping the sleeping bag, Hannah eased out form under his arm, making him sighed and roll away from her.

The air of the barn was cool, last nights rain had dropped the temperature to a more fall-like degree, making her shiver slightly as she reached for her jacket. Around her, the sounds of the others still at rest was comforting. During the night the rain had stopped, but the morning sky was still gray with clouds. There was a low blanket of fog on the ground from the sudden inversion of the air and it added to the stillness. Absently, Hannah wondered what time of morning it was, something she had not thought about for a while. Time had ceased to be important lately, it was morning then evening, time to eat and time to sleep. Funny how the made designated segments fell away. A minute was now more of an expression, rather than an essential flash of time.

She saw that Jesse was sitting in the door of the loft. Hannah grabbed up her rifle and wandered over to where he leaned against the door frame, staring out at the field and the road beyond. His view limited the fluffy white fog hanging around the trees and obscuring the distance that could be seen. Jesse heard her shuffle through the hay, nodding to her as she joined him.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Back at you,” Hannah whispered, aware of the silence and wishing not to break its peace. “Anyone else up?”

“Just you.”

“And you,” she observed.

He grinned. “And me. It’s still early.”

“How so you know?”

He pointed to the horizon, still overcast, but lighter than the sky above them. “The sun just came up not long ago. Going to be a cool day.”

“Fall’s officially here, I think.”

“Maybe.”

They both were quiet. Hannah looked at the muddy field, the puddles in the drive and what little of the wet road beyond she could observe. “Today?”

Jesse shrugged. “I hope.”

“It’s been a long time coming.”

Agreeing, Jesse nodded to the sleeping form of Isaac. “How’s he doing?”

“Awful,” said Hannah. “He’s really bummed about Eddie.”

“He’ll make it,” said Jesse, looking back out over the empty day. “Here’s a funny one for you; me and him and Eddie, we were all hangin’ out a couple days ago and Eddie asks Isaac why he’s not wearin’ his revolver. Isaac says it doesn’t load fast enough, and Eddie tells him with the way he shoots it, what’s it matter.” Jesse paused to make sure Hannah was listening. When he was sure she was, he continued. “I ask if Isaac’s that bad, and Eddie says, nope, he’s that good. I’m like what the fuck? Eddie says that Isaac is some kind of wizard with this Ruger Blackhawk, he’s a cowboy action shooter.”

Hannah waited for the punch line.

“You don’t get it?”

“Sorry.”

“Isaac’s got this cowboy rig and he’s some kind of wiz at the fast draw, like in the movies, you know?”

“Okay--.”

“I’m just wonderin’ how much that kid is holdin’ back,” said Jesse. “We’ve got Owen, who seems to be a demon with a gun—“

“—he is,” confirmed Hannah, remembering his shooting skills.

“—and now here’s Isaac,” said Jesse. “Makes a man feel insecure.”

“Ha,” replied Hannah, “I doubt you’d ever feel that way. Why are you bringing this up?”

“I’ve just been sitting here thinking about all this,” Jesse waved a hand around to encompass the world, “and I’ve been thinkin’ about what is gonna be required over the next few months, years maybe, to live. Farmers, gun hands and breedin’ stock.”

“Breeding stock? I hope you mean cattle.”

“You know I don’t.”

“Wow,” observed Hannah. “Where do I fall in?”

“At the risk of soundin’ like a chauvinist, you’re kind of up there on the list of breeders, Hannah.”

“You sound very chauvinistic,” reprimanded Hannah.

Shrugging, Jesse sighed. “Think about it; we’re twenty odd people, of those people nine of them are kids, ten are women, eight are men. Of those women, two of them can’t have kids, one is so fucked up, she’ll probably never let a guy touch her again. One’s pregnant, who knows what her mental state is, so we’re down to six women who can carrying on at least over the next couple years. There’s two of the kids that will come of age here in a year or so, but personally, fuckin’ a thirteen year old is a little too, sick. The other one, she’s fifteen, soon to be sixteen and that’s on the edge of improper for our puritan way of thinkin’, unless your name’s Ted.”

“What brought all this on?” asked Hannah.

“Couple things; sitting up while no one else is awake,” here Jesse looked at Hannah, “and seeing you cuddled up with Isaac.”

“Nothing happened, Jesse.”

“Shit, it’s none of my business if somethin’ did happen. But the boy’s got it for you, and hell, I think Owen might too.”

“Now you sound like Stacy,” groused Hannah.

“Stacy is a thinker.”

“You sure that’s not a stinker?”

Giving her a short laugh, Jesse gave her that one. “Still in all, it might be something we’re faced with.”

“Let’s not buy problems,” she told him. “You hungry?”

“I am.”

Standing, Hannah stretched and bent to pick up her rifle. She paused and then pointed. “what’s that?”

Jesse looked to where she pointed. Through the fog, she could just see a shape moving. It seemed large. Jesse picked up the binoculars and focused on the object.

“Start wakin’ people up,” he ordered.

Hannah began to move among the people, waking up the adults first, silently shaking them and holding a finger to her lips as they started to form questions. She pointed to where Jesse was glassing the distance, and raised her rifle, pointing to their BOB’s and weapons. Once that was finished, she and the others started waking the children. When Hannah shook Chelsea, she immediately picked up her BOB and rifle and went to where Jesse now lay in the straw, just back from the opening of the door. Jesse handed the young girl the binoculars and she began to glass the area. Jesse moved back and crawled to the middle of the loft. The tension in the air was thicker than the fog outside and the stress of the unknown palatable on the faces of those gathered.

“Looks like three vehicles, maybe more” said Jesse. “Looks like our Toyota is one of them. It might be trouble. We need to get to the bus and the other vehicles, quietly.”

“What about the cows?” asked Pete.

“Leave them for now, we don’t need the noise they’ll make.”

“But they’re important.”

“So’s my life, and the lives of everyone here. Leave the fuckin’ cows.”

Red spoke up. “Should we unhook the trailer?”

“No, not yet. It won’t take long if we need to,” decided Jesse. He looked around at everyone. “Where the fuck’s Owen?”

“I woke him,” said Hannah, suddenly worried.

“Damn it. Isaac, you and Hank get everyone headed to their vehicles, make sure the kids get in the bus and ducked down. Gina and Anne, make sure they stay quiet. Then the two of you get ready to move out. Red, you and Brad make a quick sweep around the place, make sure we’ve got all our shit—“

“Jesse,” came Chelsea’s low shout of warning. “People are moving through the field.”

“Fuck,” snarled Jesse. “Red, Brad, forget that, get everyone to their vehicles. Chelsea, get over here.”

Everyone began to move to the ladder. Isaac and Hank hurried down to help the kids down the ladder. Hannah scrambled to her sleeping bag and gave it a rough rolling before she attached it to he BOB. Angry voices came from the area below the loft. There was a single report of a gunshot, then the screams of the children. Jesse pushed passed the people in line for the ladder as more shouts came from the lower floor. Hannah hurried over. Jesse stood over the opening to the loft, his rifle held ready, but his face a mask of anger and confusion. Below, Hannah saw men dressed in a combination of camo clothing and everyday wear. All of them carried some form of assault rifle. They held their firearms at ready as well, some pointing up at the loft, some at the huddled children and Isaac and Hank, both of whom were sprawled on the ground.

“Unless you want these kids hurt, drop that Goddamn rifle,” came the order from below.

Jessica dropped her SKS even though she was no where within sight of the speaker. Jesse hesitated, then lowered his CAR.

“Drop it,” repeated the speaker. Jesse tossed it into the hay. Hannah felt sick. She backed away, only to have a rifle trained on her. She let hers fall to the straw covered floor as well. “Come down one at a time. You first, hero.”

Jesse eased down the ladder. Hannah followed, as did the rest. Chelsea was not in the mix. Hannah began to feel a coldness in the pit of her stomach. She hoped that the girl was not going to do something stupid and get herself killed. As this thought entered her mind, she gave the same consideration to Owen’s whereabouts. Glancing down at Isaac and Hank, she was glad to see that they both still moved. Men moved among them, stripping them of their weapons and Bug Out Bags. The men smelled as if they had been sleeping in their clothing for days. Hannah wrinkled her nose when one of the men came close to her. He snarled at her expression and harshly jerked her BOB from her shoulders, almost punching her in the gut to unbuckle her gunbelt. All of the captured weapons were piled near the door.

“Kneel,” came the order.

Glancing at Jesse, he shrugged and Hannah knelt beside him. Isaac and Hank slowly got to their knees. Through the man door strode two men. One of them, a short man with dark hair, nodded to one of the rifle bearers.

“Tell them to come in,” he said.

The man nodded and went out the door. Hannah waited through this exchange, carefully counting the numbers that held them captive. There were ten men in the room with rifles trained on the group. Outside, she could hear the sound of vehicles as they came down the driveway. The engines shut off one at a time, leaving behind a penetrating silence that was broken by the man to enter the barn with dark haired man.

“Miss me, Pete?” asked David. He was not in camo like the rest, and still had his shotgun and pistols. He looked as if he had been sleeping in a ditch. David cast his eyes over the group and they came to rest on the young girl he had been abusing. “I know you missed me darlin’.”

She whimpered.

“That’s enough for now, is everyone here?”

David took a count of the faces. He shook his head. “That fucker Owen’s not here, neither is that punk kid with the attitude.”

The man stepped up to the group. “I’m sending two of my boys up there, if they get shot, I’m gonna start putting holes in people down here; is there anyone else up there?”

No one spoke. Hannah saw several of the men in camo frown at the threat.

“I’m not kidding,” he said.

“No one is up there,” said Jesse.

“Better not be.” He motioned to two of the men. The slowly began to climb up the ladder.

Hannah held her breath.

They all listened as the men shuffled around in and among the hay bails, moving the loose hay and straw, kicking at piles. They appeared at the loft opening and shook their heads.

“Nothin’, Steve,” said one.

The dark haired man nodded. “Come on down.” He turned to Jesse. “You seem to be the spokesman for the group, where are they?”

“Dead,” replied Jesse.

“Fuck that,” interjected David.

“You shot Owen,” said Jesse.

Steve looked at David. “You said you shot it out with them.”

“I swear he looked fine when he was chasin’ me.”

“Blood loss,” lied Jesse.

“What about the punk kid?” demanded David.

“Zombie, when you ran out, you left the plank over the stairs, remember?”

David looked unconvinced, but had no evidence to disprove Jesse’s words.

Steve motioned to the group. “Get these fucks into a place where we can watch all of them.”

“Where?” asked one of the men.

“I don’t give a shit,” he said. “Find someplace.”

The men all looked at one another. “You want them back upstairs?”

“Any guns up there stupid?”

“Not that we saw,” said the man, his face going tight at the words that Steve leveled at him.

“You go up there with Ned and watch them.”

The man motioned with the rifle. “Ned go up and make sure they don’t do something stupid. You people get up and follow him. Any of you try something stupid, and one of us’ll start putting bullets out.”

Ned scrambled up the ladder and waited at the top. The group followed, with Ned directing them over to one corner of the loft. Hannah sat beside Jesse in a place where they could see outside through the loft. She could see the armed men were searching the bus and other vehicles, and the five vehicles that the militia had driven in, one being the Toyota and the other the van that Isaac and the rest had been driving. Isaac joined Jesse and Hannah. He said nothing, simply watched as women and children climbed out of the vehicles, carrying various personal items with them.

“Looks like they had to leave home,” whispered Isaac.

“Wonder why?” said Hannah.

Jesse gave a grim smile. “I’ll bet all those Zombies from the other day followed them home.”

“You think they got over run?”

“I think that they did and David told them about Coulter. When they didn’t find us, David might have convinced that Steve guy that we had someplace to hole up.”

“He wasn’t too far from the truth.”

“Why didn’t they just stay in the town?” wondered Hannah.

“I’ll bet they saw the Toyota and Steve put two and two together and decided a little revenge was in order.”

“Did you see the way some of those guys were looking at Steve when he was giving orders?” asked Hannah.

“Not too happy with him,” replied Jesse.

“Not at all,” agreed Hannah.

Ned shouted at them. “Hey, shut up.”

Jesse clenched his jaw. “We’ve got kids here than haven’t eaten, you mind if we feed them?”

“You’ll eat when we tell you,” was the response.

The other man sighed. “Fuck, Ned, they’re kids.”

“You go down and ask than.”

The man shook his head. “What a fucking way to live.”

“Hey, you joined up knowing who was in charge.”

“Whatever, they’re just kids. Not many left, you know that.”

“I do what I’m told, so should you.”

They fell silent.

Hannah listened to the exchange, trying to decide how to work the apparent division to their advantage. She wondered again where Owen and Chelsea were. Below them, a triumphant shout was raised at the items in the bus. Hannah began to count the minutes. Time had suddenly become very important once again.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:34 pm

The weather outside was gray and overcast, adding to the mood of despair that had fallen over the assembled group. Hannah noticed that the townspeople had separated themselves from Hannah’s group as well as the remaining three people of the group of which Owen had been a part. Anne and Michelle were huddled away from them as well, both staring out at the distant horizon as if waiting for a rescue that might never come. Hank had simply lay down in the straw and gone back to sleep, curled up in the fetal position against the chill in the air from the rain. The mothers, what were left of them, had gathered the kids together and were attempting to distract them with word games and stories. The two guards stood a distance apart, both of them keeping a nervous eye on the group. Every now and then they paced together for short conversation and then apart. During one of their conversations, the mothers seemed to come to a decision.

Jessica stood up and walked to the two armed men. Hannah held her breath as the other woman looked up at them, her face a mixture of anger and fear. The men stopped talking to stare at the short woman.

“Our kids need food,” said Jessica.

Ned shook his head. “So what, lady, I’ve got orders to keep you here. Now go back and sit down.”

“They’re kids, for Pete’s sake,” half plead, half argued Jessica. “They don’t deserve to be treated like criminals. I don’t know what you think we’ve done to deserve this, but our kids--.”

Ned started to say something but the other one cut him off. “I’ll go down and see what we can do.”

“Even if it’s just a big pot of oatmeal or something--,” suggested Jessica.

The man nodded and pulled Ned away from her. As Hannah watched, they conversed in low tones and kept casting glances at the size of the group.

“What do you think?” whispered Hannah to Jesse.

“I think that they’ll let the kids eat.”

“Are we going to do something?”

“I’m thinkin’, but I don’t know what they’ve got planned other than take all our crap.” Jesse nodded to where the militia were finishing the job of emptying the house of the items they had either deemed not necessary or simply had no time to carry out to the bus. The women and children were not in sight, and Hannah assumed they were inside the house and out of the drizzling weather. Others of the group were searching the grounds of the farm, followed by a 4x4 truck towing a trailer. They were taking everything that was not nailed down, and some things that were. They even had a couple of the younger men working to capture the chickens and they were putting them in cages.

“They seem to be doing a better job then we did,” noted Hannah.

Jesse grunted. “They don’t seem to be in as big of a hurry.”

“What are they going to do with us?”

“If it were me,” said Jesse. “I’d offer clemency to the townspeople and then banish us or somethin’.”

“What do you mean?” asked Isaac, who had been listening from his position on the hay bale.

“They seem to have hunted us down,” commented Jesse. “They could have simply moved into the town and call it good, with everyone gone, but they kept coming. My bet is that Steve might have it in for us since we hurt him a couple times.”

“They attacked us,” pointed out Isaac.

“True, but the truth is often obscured by emotion.” Jesse looked away from the busy militia. “He’s got to keep bein’ the big dog, and to do that, he’s got to show that he’s in charge and can meet any threat.”

“I don’t see that we’re a threat,” said Isaac.

“Don’t matter, he does.”

They all stopped talking when Ned stepped up to Jessica. “You come with me.”

She looked back at the group, her expression frightened and then set her face in a firmer expression when she turned back to Ned. Jessica nodded to him and he motioned for her to follow him down the ladder. There was a group exhalation as she disappeared down the ladder. Hannah watched as Ned guided her to the house.

“You think he’ll let her feed the kids?”

“I would if I wanted the townspeople to like me,” responded Jesse. He nodded to the lone guard as the kids began to sing a song, led by one of the women. “You know there’s three rifles up here?’

“What?” demanded Hannah, searching the barn for the weapons to magically be hanging from the rafters. Isaac sat forward as well, searching for the mystical firearms.

“Calm down,” urged Jesse. He nodded to the guard. “He’s about standin’ on one. Think back; I dropped mine, you dropped yours, Jessica dropped hers. Did you see anyone pick them up?”

Hannah shook her head. “No, and the guy over there said he didn’t see any guns.”

“He sure did, now either they got picked up by someone else, or they’re still there and got kicked under straw so he didn’t see them.” Jesse rubbed his face. “As far as I know, other than us, those two guards were the only ones up here. Unless Chelsea picked them up, we’ve got to find away to get to them.”

Trying to pick out where she had been standing, Hannah searched the floor for her AR. She couldn’t tell if it was there from where she sat. “What do we do if we get them? They’ve got us out numbered and out gunned.”

“Yep,” agreed Jesse. “I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Sitting back on a hay bale, Isaac sighed. “Let me know when you do.”

Hannah saw that Jessica was coming back with two large containers of oat meal. She assumed that Jessica would cook them on the grill below. Coming behind her was Ned and another man. Hannah leaned next to Jesse.

“How many do you think there are?”

“Guards? I’ve counted between fifteen and seventeen,” said Jesse. “I’ll bet there are about the same in women and children.”

“So we’re dealing with about forty-five people?”

“Gun totin’, half that, I’ll bet.”

“Three against the world,” murmured Hannah.

“Five,” corrected Jesse.

“How’s that?”

“Owen’s out there, so’s Chelsea.”

As she listened to his answer, Hannah had to give him a wane smile. “That would end in a Pyrric Victory, wouldn’t it?”

Frowning, Jesse shrugged. “Got me on that one.”

Grinning, Hannah leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her knees. “Something you don’t know about? A Pyrrhic Victory is a battle that is fought and won, but at the cost of all those involved, so there’s nothing left after the battle.” Hannah shrugged. “Pyrrhus was the leader of one of the armies, he’s the one who said something like, ‘another victory like that and we’ll be undone’. I think he was fighting the Romans.”

“And where did you pick that up from?”

“Another boyfriend who was into history.”

Jesse chose not to respond to that comment. Instead he commented on the lesson involved. “If we can’t win by the sheer superior virtue of our cause, then we’ll need a plan to divide and conquer.”

“I’ve been thinking on that one,” said Hannah.

“What do you have?”

“Nothing.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“Some of the militia people don’t seem too happy,” suggested Hannah.

“Which ones?”

She nodded to the man standing near the loft ladder. “That one, for starters.”

“And we’ll coax him over to our side how?”

“Don’t know,” said Hannah.

They both settled back knowing that nothing had been resolved.

Below, they could hear as Jessica began to prepare the food fro the children. Soon the smells of the oatmeal were wafting up to the loft area. They all looked as Ned climbed up the ladder followed by another man. He motioned to where the children were seated.

“All the kids, follow me.”

“What about their parents?” asked one of the women.

“What about them?” he returned.

“You think we’re just going to let our kids down there with you by themselves?”

“If you’re that concerned, then don’t let them eat,” said the man, turning away and starting down the ladder.

There was a quick conference about the matter and finally one of the mothers stood. She pulled up several of the children on her way and guided them to the ladder. With a few words of encouragement, she had them climb down the ladder and them followed them. Ned stepped up and put a hand out to restrain her. She stared at him until he lowered his hand.

“Fine,” he said. “But no funny business.”

Hannah almost laughed at his words because they seemed so ineffective to her in the face of the mother’s defiance. A couple of the other women gathered up the rest of the kids and they too climbed down the ladder.

“Well, there’s a line drawn,” mentioned Jesse.

“You think?”

“Yep, you think they’d go and shoot a mom trying to feed her kids?” Jesse questioned her. He leaned forward. “Ned seems to be pretty hard core, considering the material that they have to work with, but even he won’t cross a line like that.”

“So he’s got a heart.”

Jesse shook his head. “You don’t get it; even with things going to shit around us, there’s still people who won’t be brutal. It’s what makes the United States what it is. We’re the ones who provided wheat to Russia, even when they were our ‘enemy’ during the cold war. We bombed Germany and Japan nearly into the stone age and then gave them cash to rebuild. There’s all kinds of examples all over the world that make the US different from everywhere else.” Hannah stared at Jesse while he was making his speech. He waved a hand in front of her. “Anyway, the point is this; they’re not so far over that they’re gonna just pop us in the back of the head and go. Well, not all of us.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“They’re probably going to pop you and I in the head, maybe Isaac too.”

“Why me?” asked Isaac.

“Guilt by association, and you were a part of our great escape from here,” reminded Jesse.

“Oh yeah, and they’re the ones who got Eddie killed,” remembered Isaac sourly. “I’ll have to thank them for that.”

A sharp command cut across their conversation. “Shut up over there.”

The three of them looked over to see Ned and one of the other guards staring at them.

“Too bad they’ve still got the guns,” muttered Isaac.



The time passed slowly as the rain began to fall harder. Hannah had slept a little, then woke, feeling stiff and sore, her wounds from being shot, the near fatal Zombie bite and all the subsequent bruises, both mental and physical, had cumulated into her feeling as if she were never going to be whole again. The kids had been herded back up to the loft after their breakfast, they were now restless and their complaints reached across the loft. The two men now assigned to guard them both glanced nervously at the kids. Hannah wondered what they thought the kids were going to do; attack them with bales of hay, throw pieces of straw at them like daggers? Shifting to relieve some of the tightness in her shoulders and her leg, which was now throbbing under the wrapping, Hannah cast an eye out to see where Jesse had gone.

He was talking to Anne and Michelle, they’re conversation broken up by the uneasy glimpses the guards were giving them. She was unsure of the exact reason for the low words, but she knew he had planned on trying to enlist the two women in an attempt at if not taking control of the militia, at the very least escaping from their grasp. Hannah wondered what they were going to say about the entire situation; they had nothing to do with the skirmishes that Hannah and the others had been involved in and she saw no reason why they should join them. With the disappearance of Owen and Chelsea, Hannah could see that they would not want to risk involvement in a plan that might very well cost them their lives. She wondered where Owen and the little girl were, if they had simply left on foot, leaving the rest behind. Although she could see that Owen might do something like that since he had no real ties to them other than their companionship, she could not see Chelsea following anyone away from them, at least not willingly.

The militia people had disappeared from the rain into the house. The smell of the interior of the place must have been nearly overpowering, but the thin tendril of smoke rising from the chimney told her they had settled in, at least for the time being. On the whips of smoke was carried the smells of cooking food, and Hannah’s stomach growled at the thought of eating. She had to speculate at what was going on inside the farm house; where they deciding the fate of the people in the barn, or where they simply going to gather up every useful thing in sight and leave as soon as the rain quit, leaving them with no defense, no transportation and no hope of surviving?

Below her, the bus and all the vehicles had been repositioned for a quick exit from the farm. All of the chickens were now in the back of one of the pickup trucks, the cages containing them had been covered with a large tarp and their quiet clucking subdued in the rain. The men had also rounded up the cows that the group had not put in stalls for the ride to the lodge and the animal could be heard below, not only adding their noise to the soft fall of the rain, but amazingly, their smell was comforting in the confines of the barn. It made the place seem normal.

Other than the two guards in the loft, there were two more roaming the grounds that Hannah could see. She thought there might be another one or two somewhere out of the weather, but had not seen anyone. The guards had taken them to use the old outhouse behind the milking shed in shifts. They had not been allowed to talk, and Ted had received a punch in the chest from one of the men when he had tried to speak to her. The blow knocked the boy down, causing Hannah to try and defend him, only to be pushed aside herself. She was too weak from all her other wounds to do much else but protest, which fell on deaf ears. Because of his recent encounter, Hannah was surprised to find Ted slowly working his way to where she sat. He finally made it next to her and they gave each other a silent greeting. After making sure they guards gaze was occupied elsewhere, he leaned near her, speaking to the straw between them.

“Do you see Chelsea?” he asked.

Hannah shook her head. “I haven’t seen her since this morning before all this.”

“In a minute, look up,” he instructed. “She’s up in the rafters, in the fort I built when I was a kid.”

Rather than pointing out that he was still a kid, Hannah fought the urge to look up right away. She had not thought about checking the rafters, nor had she even considered that she might be just a few feet away. “How’d she know about it?”

“I told her about it,” said Ted. “You can climb up there by using the boards I nailed to the rafters going up the side of the loft. I used to jump from there into the loose hay.”

“How big is it up there?”

Ted shrugged. “Four planks wide, big enough to lie down on, not big enough to move much.”

“Did you see her up there?” asked Hannah, wanting to be sure that he knew for sure the little girl was where he said.

“I did, nearly crapped myself when she peeked over.”

They fell silent as the guards looked over at them. Hannah thought for a moment about what Chelsea might have with her on that little platform above them. Chelsea would have her rifle, the M4-style carbine and ammunition. For a moment, Hannah struggled to remember how much that might be. She gave up, knowing that she’d never paid attention to the girls load and now wished she had down so. In addition to the AR, Chelsea carried the .22 revolver that Freddy had given to her, and another pistol, maybe one of the Taurus 9mm’s, but for the life of her, she could not remember. Hannah knew for sure that Chelsea would have her BOB, containing a portion of food, a couple water bottles, more ammo and other items she might need if separated from the group. The girl could simply wait it out as the events simply unfolded below her. If they were able to get to the rifles still concealed under the hay, she might become a major part of their attempt to overcome the militia. Hannah finally let her eyes swing up to the roof as she leaned back as if to stretch.

She was able to make out the platform in the dim light. If it had been sunny, the boards would have been more obvious to the casual observer. But with the gloomy shadows of the dull day to aid in concealment, the boards appeared a part of the roofing, unnoticed and easily ignored. Chelsea saw Hannah glance at her and the little girl grinned, her mouth full of something she happily crunched on as she waited for her moment. When she was sure that Hannah had seen her, Chelsea ducked back away from the edge of the boards. Hannah shook her head and almost laughed, but covered up the grin that came to her face by ducking it quickly down to her chest. Even though it was serious, and their fate tenuous, Hannah couldn’t help but feel relief that the girl was out of the storm, safe after a fashion and still in high spirits.

“So what now?” wondered Hannah aloud.

Ted, thinking she was talking to him, whispered to her while still looking at the hay. “Jesse thinks that they’ll come and get the six of you and do something stupid. When they do, me, Hank, Jeffery, and maybe Anne and Michelle are going to jump the guards. Jesse told me about where the rifles are, and we’re going to either try and help you, or we’re supposed to get out of here with as many vehicles as we can drive.”

“What about the rest of the people?”

“They can help or stay,” said Ted as matter-of-factly. “I’m not letting these assholes have my dad’s stuff no matter what, even if it means I burn it all where it sits.”

Hannah nodded. “Don’t do something to get yourself hurt.”

“Like what?”

She had no answer for him; there was very little he could do in the present day that wouldn’t get him hurt in some way, either emotionally or physically. He gave her a slight nod of goodbye and crawled away when the men watching them turned their backs. Hannah want back to watching the rain and saw the door to the farm house open and several men step out into the rain. With growing trepidation, Hannah looked on while they marched to the barn with a single-mindedness which did not bode well for her and the others.



She risked being yelled at by the guards to call out to Jesse. He ignored their orders to sit down and walked over to the loft door. After a second of staring at the men walking over, he smiled at Hannah.

“I think this might be it,” Jesse said as he turned away. The two guards rushed over and pointed their weapons at him and Hannah, both of whom raised their hands in surrender.

Hannah could feel her stomach tighten as the muzzles of the weapons were leveled at her. Her eyes narrowed slightly at the expressions of the men behind the weapons; they appeared as if they were prepared to shoot Jesse and Hannah despite the lack of weaponry on their part. Beyond the two men, Hannah could see Ted moving and pulling the SKS from under the hay. Ted motioned for the other people to be quiet as they began to protest, his actions or the guards, Hannah was not sure, and she felt the situation spiraling out of control. One of the men began to turn towards the others, presumably to tell them to shut up, but the movement risked starting a battle they could not win in the long run. Glancing up, Hannah saw Chelsea moving on the platform, her own rifle edging over the boards to draw a bead on the two men threatening her friends. Jesse forestalled the opening of the fight by shouting at the people in the room.

“Hold it!” Jesse stepped forward, distracting the man from the others and Ted who was scrambling back next to Hank with the SKS. They hid the rifle next to them and tensely watched as the situation seemed to pause in mid-action. Jesse kept talking. “No one’s gonna do anything stupid, here.”

“God damn right,” hissed one of the men.

Still facing one another, the four of them gradually backed away, the riflemen physically, and Jesse and Hannah by moving to sit down. Hannah let herself practically fall to the nearby bale as her legs went weak. She took a couple of controlled breaths and then glanced at Jesse who was nodding to Ted.

“Fuck,” she breathed at Jesse. “Was that part of the plan?”

“No, but I’ll take the results anyway.”

“Now what?” asked Hannah.

Jesse’s reply was cut off by the ladder shaking and men coming over the top. One of them was David, who grinned at everyone. He stepped aside as Steve climbed up. David pointed to Hannah and the others.

“They’re the ones who came into town,” he told the militia leader.

Nodding, Steve motioned for the men with him to collect the people that David had pointed out. “Get them downstairs.”

Hannah, Jesse, Isaac, Stacy and Carolina were culled from the others with the muzzles of rifles. They started to try and move Ted as well. He defiantly sat where he was, staring at the men who were threatening him.

“Fuck you,” he said to them.

One of the men, a man with a mean scar etching his jaw line, leaned forward and poked him with the rifle, a quick stab that took Ted in the chest and made him cry out, then double over. Jesse and the others tensed, making those guards around them level various weapons at them. Hannah saw David’s face stretch with a malicious grin at the prospect of the crew getting gunned down in front of him. He sneered as Jesse held out a hand to stay whatever rash action they might take. Anne hurried to his side as Hank stared at the man, his hand dangerously close to the buried SKS. Hannah caught her breath when the man pointed the rifle at Anne. She contemptuously pushed the barrel away, swearing at him as she did so.

“He’s a fucking kid, you asshole,” she snarled.

“He’s a fucking killer,” mouthed the man, swinging the rifle back and jabbing her with the muzzle. She slapped at it again only to be rewarded with a quick blow to her head. The barrel hit her just hard enough to make her duck and cry out, holding a hand to her head.

“Jesus,” said his partner.

“Shut up, Dan,” snarled the other. He reached down and yanked Ted to his feet. Pushing Ted in the direction of the others, the man followed. Dan shook his head after a glance at Anne, who pulled her hand away from her hair, exposing blood in her palm. Anne gave him a withering glare as he gave a short shake of his head.

“Who is he supposed to have killed?” demanded Michelle, hurrying over to Anne.

Steve took a breath to answer her. “Eight of my men that I know of, not including those who were attacked and bit by the Zombies they unleashed on us. Women and children died that time.”

Michelle seemed less sure of her ire at his proclamation. Anne was not deterred.

“You asshole, if your men acted anything like they are now, they needed killing.”

“Shut the fuck up bitch,” snapped David.

Steve backhanded David, striking him in the mouth. While the shorter man lacked the size to do much damage, the blow still snapped David’s head to one side, making him spin back at the smaller man with his fists raised. Even David paused at the sight of the rifles that suddenly turned his direction. “I’ll handle this.” He turned to Anne. “They’ll get a trail of their peers, lady, don’t worry.”

“How magnanimous,” returned Anne. “Do I get to file charges on that fuck that hit me?”

“Sometimes, enforcing the law is dirty work, sorry.” He turned away and began to climb down the ladder. He stopped just before he was all the way down. “Besides, this is a military matter, consider yourselves under house arrest and martial law.”

Anne gave him a scornful laugh. “What military would that be, the Aryan Brotherhood?”

Steve’s face turned dark, but he maintained his composure. “Hardly. Considering the condition of the world today, you might think of me as the Commander-in-Chief, if not that, then at least the General of the surviving United States Army.”

On hearing this, Hannah frowned as she remembered the DJ speaking from so long ago, when she had been alone and trapped in her apartment.

“You’re not Lieutenant Hope,” she blurted out.

Steve paused in surprise and then shook his head. “No, I’m not. The good lieutenant unfortunately met with his untimely demise a few weeks ago trying to save the world.”

The guard who had hit Ted gave a short laugh and then pushed at Jesse, telling him to move down the ladder. They all moved, wondering what was in store for them next.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:36 pm

Under close guard, the six of them were led across the rainy drive to the house. As she walked, Hannah’s mind raced with all the new information she had discovered. Though she had never spoken about it to anyone, she had harbored the secret anticipation that Lt. Hope would somehow be able to battle his way through the hordes of undead and ride to the rescue of those trapped in the world and battling the ghouls of the new age. His messages to the populace was always one of encouragement and the promise that he would be coming to save them. Now, it was clear that he had died trying to make that boast a reality. Now this man, General Steve, was claiming his position in the ranks of the military and using that usurped power to gain control over a small pocket of humanity. The outlook for all those concerned looked, as far as Hannah was concerned, grim. She sneaked a glance at Jesse; he seemed to be lost in his own world of thought. His mouth was set in a grim line and he stared straight ahead.

They threaded their way through the vehicles in the drive, then up the short steps into the mud room where just days before, she and Isaac and Stacy had entered to rid the structure of the walking dead, then as a bonus rescue Ted from a slow death from dehydration and starvation. As Hannah began to mount the steps into the house she heard a man’s voice screeching at the top of his lungs. Everyone turned to see who was creating the uproar. Someone let out a short guffaw at the scene that came literally, streaking around the corner of the house.

He was naked. His pale body marked with the sun stripes of a man who wore shirts with the sleeves rolled up and the stretch marks of age pulled at his belly, which jiggled as he ran, barefoot, through the tall grass. He was clutching his groin as he ran in an attempt to cover himself. Someone swore, and to Hannah it sounded like Steve. The man raced up to the others, for a moment oblivious as to his condition and began to blubber at them, trying to get his story out between gasps.

“Where the fuck are your clothes, Mitch?” demanded Steve.

Mitch took a second to catch his breath. “That fucker made me strip and tol’ me to run here,” he gasped.

“What fucker?”

“That nut in the cowboy hat,” said Mitch.

Hannah saw David turn red and look at Jesse, who refused to return David’s accusing glare.

“Why don’t you tell me what the fuck happened?”

Taking a deep breath, Mitch looked around at the people staring at him. Realizing he had a rather large audience, he flushed a deep red, the color rising from his chest and traveling along his neck and face. “Can we take it out of the rain?”

“Spit it out,” commanded Steve.

Now uncomfortable, Mitch hung his head. “Me and Brook were patrolling the perimeter like you said. We were walking along by this stand of trees and all of a sudden Brook just falls over. I’m looking at him and he’s down, not moving. I turn to start seeing if I can figure out what happen, I bent over him and there’s these fucking cowboy boots and this dude is standing there pointing a goddamn machinegun at me. He tells me to strip down, since he’s go the drop on me; what the fuck’m I supposed to do? He then tells me to tell you that he’ll accept your surrender. You’re supposed to leave in the cars you came in. He’d said he’d give you an hour to get moving.”

Steve slowly turned a different shade of color as he listened. Hannah fought her smile, recognizing the description of Owen. She wondered what Owen planned on doing out in the rain, by himself. Barely controlling his rage, Steve pointed at Mitch. “You go back out there and show these men where you fucked up. You find that motherfucker, or I swear, I’ll have your goddamn balls for breakfast.”

The naked man nodded and started for the house.

“Where the hell are you going?” demanded Steve.

“I’m gonna get some clothes--.”

“Like hell, you’re going to turn around and show them where it happened.”

“But its cold, and wet,” whined Mitch.

Unable to restrain himself any longer, Steve punched the man. Hannah turned away as the man raised his hands to protect himself against further blows. “You’ll go out there and find your other goddamn clothes or you’ll just have to fucking freeze.” Steve turned to one of his men. “Rick, take four other guys and go get this cowboy bastard. Either bring me him, or his fucking head.”

Rick nodded and pushed Mitch ahead of him after pointing out four men to follow him. Hannah watched them trot off, worried that they would find Owen, and worried that he might not be able to overcome his vow to not kill another living person. Rick and his cohorts would certainly have no such qualms about killing Owen. Steve pointed at the remaining guards and they moved the six companions into the house. Hannah stepped into the kitchen with the others, smelling the strong odor of coffee, cooked food and under it all, the cloying smell of the undead that had saturated the walls of the house. Inside the women and children seemed to huddle away from them, their faces masks of worry and concern. Some of the women gazed at the companions with expressions of pity, others, a very few, looked at them in disgust. Hannah assumed that these were the female counterparts to those men that had wither been killed in the fighting, or those who shared the views of Steve and his ilk. They were led into what Hannah assumed was a sitting room and directed to stand against the wall. In the room were some chairs behind a small table. When they all hesitated at moving against the wall, they were directed again, this time with the muzzle of a rifle to back the command up. The order made her skin crawl as she took her place between Isaac and Stacy. Stacy reached out and took Hannah’s hand, giving it a squeeze before letting it go. Isaac gave her a weak smile then looked back when Steve and three others entered with David in tow.

The big man grinned at them, then began to look for a place to sit. He discovered that there were only enough seats for the four militia men. Giving the four men a sour look, David settled on leaning against the wall near them. Two guards followed the others into the house. Hannah saw that one of them was the guard Dan, who had protested his partner’s treatment of Anne. Dan refused to look at them, staring at the wall behind them instead. As they stood, Hannah mentally began to count the number of guards that were left. She knew that six were somewhere in the fields, one a prisoner of Owen, four were at the barn, three were in the room with them then the apparent hierarchy of the militia, the four men seated in front of them. At the moment, Hannah felt she could account for all of the men she was starting to see as her enemies.

Rapping a pistol butt on the table, Steve brought her attention to the seated. He cleared his throat and took a second to look at them. “The first Continental Military Hearing of the United States Army will now convene. Presiding is General Steven Harper, present is Major Bob Kidd, Militia Commandant Ralph Weaver and Lt. Berry Fuches.”

Hannah wondered who had made up the titles. The major looked like he was barely eighteen, and the militia man was too heavy for his camo, stretching the fabric beyond its stated tinsel strength. Fuches was a sour looking man who did not appear as if he had ever held a rank or a title. They each nodded as their name was called, the Commandant taking a moment to wheeze a cough into a handkerchief.

“What the hell?” said Stacy.

“The prisoners will remain silent until called upon,” intoned Steve.

“This is crap,” she continued. One of the guards stepped up and raised his rifle to deliver a butt strike. Isaac moved in front of her and the rifle was suddenly reversed to point at him. Stacy grabbed Isaac’s arm and pulled him back, muttering for him to stay cool and that she would shut up.

“Now the matter before us is the murder of eight military and militia personnel by persons refusing to submit to the rightful order of the military command during a condition of Martial Law.” Steve looked at the six of them. “How do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” they said, nearly in unison.

“You will pick a spokes person,” directed Steve.

They looked at Jesse. He shrugged. “We plea not guilty.”

“State your defense.”

Jesse looked confused. “What?”

“What is your defense?”

Giving a short laugh, Jesse stepped away from the wall. The rifles were pointed at him. Jesse sighed. “I might be a little simple, but usually, even in a military court, the prosecution usually lays out its case, then I defend against it.”

“The case against you is a simply one; on four separate occasions, you were approached by members of the US Army and the Continental Militia and refused to yield to obvious attempts to stop you for integration into the protective command of said forces.”

“Wow,” said Jesse, “You managed all that with a straight face.”

“What is your defense?” asked Steve again.

“Our defense?” said Jesse. He looked at the others in the room and then back at Steve. “We were defendin’ ourselves against a unprovoked attack. There was never an attempt to make contact in anyway but a threatenin’ manner. As for this courts claim that they are the actin’ military government under the rule of martial law, there had never been an order declared by either the Governor of the State or Ohio, or the President of the United States. Neither is the so-called Continental Militia a recognized governmental body, either politically or militarily.” Jesse held out his hands as if offering a way for them to stop pretending. “You have no power over myself or my companions. Even if you were a real military court, you still have no jurisdiction as we are civilians.”

Nodding, Steve gave Jesse a thin smile. “Although that might be true under normal circumstances, this court is the recognized ruling body in the region. We were appointed by the people of Mifflin and since we are all that is left of the people of Mifflin, we are the recognized government.”

“Funny, I didn’t think we were in Mifflin.”

“Again, because of the current situation, we have elected to adapt to the conditions as they materialize.”

Jesse returned Steve’s expression. “So no matter what argument I present, you’re going to make up something to counter it?”

Steve held out his hands in a gesture that indicated Jesse was not going to win. “Is the defendant finished with his defense?”

“Apparently.”

“This court finds--,” there was a loud boom outside the house. Steve half stood out of the chair. “What the fuck was that?”

Another boom sounded. Jesse smiled. “Sounds like gunfire.”

“Son-of-a-bitch.” Steve looked at two of the guards. “Watch them.”

He led the others out of the room. David stayed behind, clutching his shotgun as he moved from the wall to one of the chairs. One of the guards began to tell him to stop, but David ignored him, leaning the chair back and propping his feet on the table. More gunshots came from the exterior, making all of them look over to the wall from where the sounds emanated.

“Sounds like that fucker Owen bit off more than he could chew,” sneered David.

Jesse shook his head. “That was from the barn.”

“The barn?” David looked confused for a moment, then his face cleared. “Ah, you stupid shits managed to hide a couple guns? No matter, they’ll make short work of you.”

“What made you hunt us down?” asked Jesse.

David spat on the floor. “You gad damn ran me off my spot, I had sweet set up, a bitch all my own—had it made.”

“What a guy,” snapped Stacy. She looked at the guards. “Did you know this asshole had a girl in a cage? A dog cage, he was raping her at will. That’s the kind of people you hang with?”

Hannah saw Dan color at her words. He looked at David, who seemed to take no notice of the man’s revulsion. She edged away from the wall. Isaac saw her moving and began to inch away from her to give them fighting room. Jesse stayed where he was, near the desk, drawing the attention away from the others.

“Hey,” defended David with a smirk. “I did what I had to do. It’s a new world out there. Didn’t you hear Steve-o? We adapt to conditions as we see fit.”

“So you went running to Mifflin after we ran you off?” asked Jesse.

“I’d been keeping in touch with them for a week or so, once I got the radio working. I knew they were looking for you fucks. They gave me a description of the cars you had, and damned if you didn’t drive right the fuck up to me. When all those zombies showed up, they were getting ready to come in to town for you. Those things kind of messed up their schedule.” David laughed. “When I had to bail, I went to them and told them that you’d taken over the town. They were camping at the fucking dam on 603 and really eager to find a new home since theirs got destroyed by some fires along with the undead problem that followed them from trying to get you that last time.”

“How’d you find us here?” asked Jesse.

“Fuckin’ luck,” reported David. “One of them was glassin’ the farm and they saw one’a you dumbshits moving around in the loft. If you had laid low, we’d’ve driven right on by.”

While he spoke, Jesse was inching toward him. At what seemed to be the last moment, Jesse kicked the table. The guards, both of them trying to ignore the big man’s bragging, had made themselves look other places, rather than face the uncomfortable gaze that Stacy was giving them, as if she were accusing them of helping David put the girl in the cage. When Jesse kicked the table, it bounced up and over, taking David with it, his legs flying into the air and over his head. The shotgun flew up in the air as David’s arms flailed at the air to try and catch his balance. Jesse rushed the tangle of furniture to get at the man under the splintering wood. David was swearing and attempting to free his pistol since the blow had sent his shotgun skittering away from his grasp. Hannah and Isaac rushed the guard.

He tried to bring his rifle around in the suddenly small space, but was overpowered by Hannah and Isaac. Isaac gave him a punch to the jaw that made the man go slack. Hannah grabbed the rifle from his nerveless fingers while Isaac jumped up and began to wave his hand in the air and swear.

Stacy and Ted rushed Dan who simply put his hands up as they took his rifle from him. They stripped him of his pistol and ammunition, then ordered him to sit down on the floor by his companion. Hannah took the other man’s pistol and ammo as well, handing the pistol to Isaac, who had stopped dancing around and was holding his hand under his armpit.

“That fucking hurt,” said Isaac, taking the pistol.

Hannah ignored his complaint and pointed her rifle where Jesse was struggling with David. The two men were locked in a brutal struggle to over come the other. Jesse was delivering vicious punches to David’s body, short jabs in the lower ribs that were making the other gasp in pain with each hit. David was attempting to choke Jesse, his big hands were wrapped around the others neck, trying to find purchase enough to close off the wind of his adversary. With a grunt, David managed to dislodge Jesse and toss him off to one side. When he had Jesse off his body, he fumbled for a pistol again, growling in frustration at the weapon which was tangled in his torn shirt. Jesse fell next to the shotgun and grabbed the weapon, rolling back to kneel beside David. He raised the shotgun, butt first and brought it down on David’s face.

David put up a hand to try and ward off the blow, but the power of the downward stroke knocked the arm into his face. David let out a shout of pain, turning his head away from the following blow. His arm once again took the brunt of the hit and Hannah thought she heard bone crack. Another blow and more cracking. Suddenly the arm was no longer in the way and Jesse rained butt strokes down on the mans unprotected face, the noise of the facial bones snapping filling the air above Jesse’s grunts as he worked on destroying the man on the floor. Blood was beginning to spatter the walls around him, Jesse did not seem to notice that David had stopped protesting and moving. He continued to hit the broken skull until Hannah calmly told him to stop.

Jesse rose form the wreckage of the table and chairs. He was clutching the shotgun, and the stock was gore covered and bits of hair and bone clung to the wood. At his feet, the body that had been David bled into the carpet, adding to the stains of the undead. Hannah did not believe they would need to worry about David returning in a fashion.

She returned her gaze to Dan, leveling the rifle. He sat staring at the scene before him, unsure if he were about to die. Jesse ripped a piece of David’s shirt off the body and attempted to wipe the stock off. He gave Dan a grimace as he spoke. “You for us, or against us?”

“Neither,” decided Dan. “I’m not going to fight you, but I’m not helping either. What happens, happens.”

“Fine. Tie his ass up.”

Hannah grabbed the belt off David’s lifeless form after Ted retrieved the crossed pistol belts. He gave one belt to Jesse and the other to Carolina, who put it on without a word. Hannah directed Dan to lie on his stomach. He did so and she secured his hands, then tied them to his feet so he could not move around. She did the same for the man Isaac had knocked out, finishing just as he was coming around. They all looked up as one of the women entered the room to investigate the noise. She held a pistol, but in the face of the weapons the others held, she quickly dropped it as ordered.

“How many more guns do you people have?” demanded Jesse, looking demonic through the blood that was flecked all over his face and body.

“There’s a couple more pistols and rifles,” she stammered.

With a rough hand, Jesse turned her around and put the shotgun in her back. “Tell them to drop them or you’re gonna to die, lady. Make sure they understand I’m in no mood to fuck around with you.”

The woman nodded fearfully and Jesse gave her a shove to get moving. Hannah started to protest but Jesse shook her off. “Those are our friends they’re trying to kill,” He reminded her.

She nodded that she understood and followed him as he guided the woman with the barrel of the shotgun.



As they moved into the main room of the farm house, Ted took the lead, pushing the women aside and ordering them simply to shut up. One woman seemed about to resist, reaching for a revolver at her side. Ted pushed her backward with a shove that knocked her to the ground before she could finish her draw. Stacy pointed the pistol she carried in the woman’s face, hissing for her to either die trying or give up. The woman pulled her hand from the weapon and Stacy grabbed it roughly from the woman, ordering her to get back. The woman scrambled on all fours to be near the others whom Ted had herded into what used to be the dining room, a smallish area with no exit and only two windows. They quickly moved among them, disarming those who had firearms and knives.

“Now what do we do with them?” asked Hannah, knowing they couldn’t leave them at their back to possibly attack them. To her surprise, Carolina stepped up and took the shotgun from Jesse.

“I’ll watch them,” she said calmly. The woman’s voice was so steady, it was frightening to hear against the echoes of gunfire from outside. Jesse gave her a questioning look, then decided it was not worth voicing.

“You good with that shotgun?” he asked instead.

“It’s better for close work,” she replied. “Besides, you’ll need the rifles outside.”

Nodding, Jesse grabbed two of the pistol they had taken from the woman along with the reloads for them and lead the way to the kitchen and the back door. Hannah gave Carolina a quick squeeze on the shoulder, making the woman smile and nod to her as she passed. Stacy did the same, and Isaac paused long enough for a hug before they followed the determined figure of Jesse as he strode through the house. They paused at the kitchen on hearing the sound of gunfire coming from very close, seemingly just outside the door. Jesse pointed at Stacy.

“Give Isaac the rifle,” he said.

“Fuck you,” snapped Stacy. “I can use it.”

Isaac’s words stopped any protest that Jesse might return with. “I think I broke my hand on that dudes jaw. I’m only good for pistols,” he informed them with a grimace as he held up his swelling hand.

“Great.” Jesse looked through the kitchen and then took a deep breath. “If I go down, just keep movin’, kill as many as you can. They don’t have much ammo up there in the loft, and no protection. We need to get this done fast. Those of us behind, pick up their weapons as we go.” He looked around at the determined faces of the others. “You’re nearly as good as my guys that were over in the Sandbox with me. I like you all more, that’s for sure. Some of you are a damn sight prettier,” Hannah and Stacy grinned at that, “Let’s get this done.”

Moving fast, Jesse and the others flowed through the kitchen. The door to the mudroom was open and through it Hannah could see two of the militia kneeling near the doorway, keeping back enough so that they were not exposed to gunfire from the loft and using the old washer and dryer as cover. One of them sensed their movement and started to turn.

Jesse gave him no chance.

When the man started to move, Jesse brought up his pistols, firing nearly at point blank as he moved, catching the man with a triple tap that ate into his side and chest. The man screamed when the bullets bore into his flesh, expanding against his organs and causing him to cough blood. His partner heard the shots, the scream and tried to turn as well. Jesse level the second pistol at him firing into his head with a double tap that blew brain and blood over the side of the washer. The body collapsed against the washer. Hannah shot the first man in the head as she stepped past him, the AR she held making a loud explosion in the tight room. Her shot effectively silenced the man’s pain. Ted and Isaac paused long enough to grab the men’s rifles and as many magazines as they could get without falling behind.

Two more down.

Through the door, Hannah could see men huddled against vehicles, shooting when they could at the general area of the loft. The fire from the loft had died down to occasional bangs to keep the militia’s head down. Regardless, Hannah could see that there was a small group of the camo-clad men moving toward the barn from the cover of the side where the people in the loft could not see. She recognized that they were led by Steve and the fat militia leader.

Keeping low, Jesse raced to the nearest of the shooters and with a moment to spare, shot one of them just as they turned to see who they were. The flurry of shots from Jesse’s pistols riddled the man and the car panel behind him, misting red into the air to fall on his comrades. Hannah fanned away from Jesse, raising the rifle she held and banging out rounds as she did so, Stacy followed suit, and Hannah saw another of the militia fall. One of the men was able to return fire only to face the wrath of the companion’s weapons. He groaned as he took several bullets and fell onto his face. The groans turned to screams as he joined his dying companions on the ground. The last man stared at them for a long moment.

He quietly dropped his rifle and raised his hands. Isaac and Ted ran up to him and forced him to the ground. They stripped his weapons from him as well as those already wreathing in pain. Jesse gave each man a quick assessment as to the survivability of his wounds. One was already dead, and another near enough that Isaac shot him through the face without pause. The third, Isaac motioned to as he spoke to Ted and Isaac.

“Take that fuck, and this one, drag their asses back inside and Isaac, stay with Carolina. Ted, you come back out and bring more ammo with you.” Isaac ducked self consciously as a couple rounds thunked into the car they were hiding behind. “We’ve got to let them know it’s us.”

Stacy shrugged and stood, waving her hands over her head. Isaac swore at her, and then gave a little laugh when she glanced down at him.

“Easy,” she said with a grin as they all looked over the edge of the fender to see Hank waving back.

Stacy fell down with a grunt and a shot sounded over the farm.

“Fuck!” screamed Hannah, dropping back down and scrambling to the woman’s side. Blood was oozing from a hole in her chest. Hannah put her hand over the hole and began to press on the small puncture, trying to stem the flow of life fluid. “Shit, shitshitshit. Goddamn it, Jesse, do something,” plead Hannah.

Isaac was at her side, swearing and ripping clothing form the dead men, shoving it at Hannah to try and stem the blood. A pool was forming at Stacy’s back. Isaac told Hannah to keep her hand over the wound and gently rolled Stacy over. He swore and grabbed several of the rags from Isaac, pushing them against he wound. Isaac was muttering to himself, cursing and telling the others to stay calm. Ted began to bang out rounds in the direction of the shot.

“Where did it come from?” demanded Jesse as he worked at trying to save Stacy.

“The barn,” came Ted’s calm reply. “Inside. There must still be surviving guards.”

“Where’s that fuck Steve?”

Ted ducked under the car and scanned where they had last seen the man and his small group. “Might be in the barn, too.”

“Let’s move Stacy inside,” ordered Jesse.

“what about these assholes?” asked Ted, pointing to the wounded man and the other.

“Kill them,” said Jesse as they started to pick Stacy up.

“Wait!” plead the man. “I’m a physician’s assistant. I can help.”

“What the fuck’s that?” asked Ted.

“A doctor without the degree,” informed Hannah tersely. She held a bloody hand up. “You save her, you hear me? Otherwise, I’ll fucking cut your feet off and leave you at the nearest Zombie town, got it?”

He nodded. “What about him.”

“You work on her first.”

The man, scrambled to his feet. “Let’s go.”

As Jesse and Hannah struggled to lift Stacy, the man and Isaac grabbed the other wounded man. Both cried out in pain as they were lifted and jostled. Hannah tried to say comforting words to Stacy, but found that nothing would come. She settled for making cooing sounds and nonsense words. It was the best she could do under the circumstances. With Ted providing cover, they raced back into the farm house.

“How the fuck does a near-doctor end up as a gunman in a militia?” she growled at Jesse as they moved.

“Same way that an ex-con becomes a leader of men,” he grinned savagely. “Fuckin’ end of the world bullshit.”

They raced passed the two dead men keeping watch in the mud room and then into the living area. When they entered the house, Carolina gasped at the sight of Stacy, bleeding and broken. She fought the desire to run over to the woman she had known and traveled with, and turned back to the room of women and children, who were making concerned noises of their own. One of them stepped up and called out to the man, who waved her back. Another called to the wounded man. Carolina pointed the shotgun at the woman. Carolina’s face was a mask of hate and fury. The woman backed away, melting into the crowd to sob against another woman’s shoulder. The children began to make little whines of their own on seeing the reaction of the adults.

The man directed them to lay the wounded on the coffee table and the kitchen table. He ordered Isaac to start heating water. Isaac looked at Jesse, who shrugged.

“If you’re not going to, then let my wife help,” the man snapped. “She’s an EMT and a nurse.”

“Fine,” agreed Isaac. He motioned for Carolina to let the woman past.

The woman ducked around the unwavering shotgun to hurry to the man’s side.

“Donna, see what you can do here,” he waved a hand at Stacy and the wounded man.

“Her first,” snarled Hannah, when the woman began to check the wounded man while her husband worked on Stacy.

“You might have a gun, lady,” snapped the nurse back at Hannah. “But I’m going to work on who ever needs me the most.” She turned away from Hannah and checked the wounds. “Nothing in the vitals, all wounds to his extremities,” she decided. She cast a hard look at Jesse. “Do you mind if I get some help over here? We just might be able to save them both.”

Jesse sighed and nodded.

“I know CPR,” came the shout from the other room. The voice was Dan’s.

“Who give’s a fuck?” asked Jesse loudly.

“I know more,” returned Dan. “That was to get your attention.”

“Fuck,” said Jesse. He looked at Hannah. “Go get him.”

Hannah scurried to the room where just a few moments before they had been on trial and leaned down next to where Dan lay trusted up like a hog ready for roast. She leaned down near his face. “You try anything, I’ll cut you down and leave you for the undead.”

“I’m here to try and save a life right now, bitch,” he spat back. “Why don’t you save the angst for someone that’s worth it?”

Hannah undid the straps as roughly as she could then stepped back as he stood. The other man mumbled something at Hannah. She frowned and looked at Dan as he rubbed his chafed wrists. “What the fuck?”

“Your friend broke his jaw,” said Dan. “We can help him too.”

“Is it life threatening?” asked Hannah.

“No, just painful,” admitted Dan.

“Fuck him then. Let’s go.”

She followed Dan out into the other room where there were now three more of the women helping to try and save Stacy and the other man’s lives. Hannah stared at the people and then walked over to Jesse.

“We need to get Steve,” she whispered.

He nodded. “Isaac, You and Carolina stay here. Anybody gets stupid, just shoot them. Don’t fucking argue with them, got it?”

“Not a problem,” said Carolina, who was now standing on the stairs with the shotgun, keeping an eye on everyone in the room. Isaac nodded. The almost-doctor sighed and Dan rolled his eyes as he began to help clean wounds and probe for fragments in them after accepting the dousing of rubbing alcohol on his hands. As she watched, Hannah wondered just what he had done in the world. Jesse motioned to her and Ted. They moved back to the mudroom.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:38 pm

Jesse paused long enough to try and assess where the enemy might be. He sighed when he saw Hank still standing in the loft opening, the SKS in hand and waving. Still looking over the yard, Jesse spoke in a slightly angry tone.

“What the fuck is his problem?”

Hannah stared at the rifle and Hank’s gestures. She shook her head. “They’re out of ammo, at least he is.”

“Damn it.” Jesse waved back that he understood. “Shall we try to make the barn?”

“How many of them are there?” asked Ted.

“At the most? Six.”

“And there’s five or six more out in the fields after Owen,” reminded Hannah.

“If they’re not headed back this way, we’re going to have to let Owen deal with them.”

“We’ve not heard a peep from that direction,” said Ted.

“Peep?”

“My dad used it all the time,” sighed Ted. Then in a voice Hannah assumed meant to mimic his father, Ted added, “I don’t want to hear a peep out’a you.” He grinned sadly. “Just one of those things.”

Not knowing what to say to that, Hannah and Jesse both stared at the barn.

“There’s maybe three rifles with ammo in there that are in the hands of our people,” decided Jesse. “The problem is this, our people are in the loft with virtually no protection. Those hay bales won’t stop a bullet of any kind, neither will the floors and walls of that place. We’re going to have to try and get them to surrender without a lot of bullets flying.”

Hannah agreed with him. “How many of us are in there?”

“Twenty,” said Ted.

“At least.”

Ted shook his head as if he were trying to remember something. He shifted a little and moved between Hannah and Jesse. “I told Chelsea about the slide.”

“Slide?”

“Yeah, when I was a kid I used to use it all the time,” said Ted. “It’s a chute that goes from the loft to the lower floor where we’d feed the cows. We used it to move hay down in the winter. The problem is its open to the main floor and if someone’s looking, then they’re screwed.”

All of them looked at the barn. “How do we let them know?”

“Chelsea knows about it,” assured Ted. “I showed it to her.”

“You two were chummy,” observed Jesse.

“She’s a kid,” defended Ted. “She was bored and I was too.”

“Anyway,” cut in Hannah. “How do we get them to use it?”

With a glance back at the barn, Jesse sighed. “Time to parley.”

“Huh?”

“Pirates oath,” growled Jesse, closing one eye and saying, “arrgh.”

The other two looked at him in confusion. He waved his hand in disgust. “Don’t you ever watch movies? Two vagabonds meet, they give an oath when they meet--, never mind. Find me something white.”

Hannah and Ted searched the room and found a white shirt in the dryer. Ted smiled when he saw it. “My mom’s,” he said before handing it to Jesse.

“I’ll try not to ruin it,” said Jesse and stepped out holding the shirt over his head. There was silence from the barn for a moment. In the loft, Hannah saw Chelsea crouching with her rifle ready. Hannah stepped out with Jesse after telling Ted to cover her. After a moment, there came a shout.

“Is this your surrender?” asked the voice of Steve.

“Nope,” shouted Jesse back. “It’s a parley.”

Hannah blinked away the wetness from the rain that was seeping down into her eyes so she could keep watch on the big doors of the barn. She couldn’t see very far into the interior of the building, the gloomy shadows obscured those that lay beyond. Finally, she saw two men walking out of the murkiness of the interior toward them. Jesse laid the shirt on the hood of the car they were using as cover and stepped out to meet them. Hannah did the same, her finger resting lightly on the trigger of the AR she held. The men coming toward them were Steve and the militia leader, Ralph Weaver, remembered Hannah. Both were muddy and wet. Both carried their weapons as if they expected to have to use them at any moment. They met in the muddy drive, standing several feet apart.

“My men’ve got you covered,” warned Steve.

“So what?” said Jesse. “You’re just as dead.”

He nodded to the loft door. Steve hesitated and then looked over his shoulder to see Chelsea and Red with their rifles covering them.

“My fucking idiots did a hell of a search, didn’t they?” he groused.

“They didn’t even bother,” corrected Jesse. “They even saw us drop them into the hay.”

“Assholes.”

“Maybe,” suggested Jesse. “Maybe they’re tired of killing real people for you.”

Steve made a slashing motion with his hand. “What do you want?”

“My people, my vehicles,” said Jesse.

“Fuck that, I figure those are a bargaining chip for me,” said Steve. “I’ve got you out numbered and out gunned.”

“You don’t give a shit about the people I have that are yours?” asked Jesse.

“They aren’t mine,” sneered Steve. “Those are supernumeraries.”

The fat man looked at him. “Hold on here--,” said Weaver.

Steve told him to shut up. “I’ve got six men out there still; I can sit back and wait.”

Jesse laughed. “You don’t know they’re still there.” Motioning to the house Jesse drew Steve’s attention to the building and the loft. “I’ve got you surrounded; I’ve got guns and people. I’m the one that can wait. We can sit here and snipe at you all day long. My people upstairs can simply pin you down where you sit. You’ve got, what, six men in there? Five?” guessed Jesse when Weaver made a face at the mention of numbers led by the two. “Call it five then. I’ve got four rifles up there in the loft,” lied Jesse, “I’ve got five in the house here. To top it off, I’ve got people willing to take them up if the first guy falls. You’ve got five men. That’s it.”

“Given a chance, my men in the house will take you out,” said Steve, no longer sure of himself. Hannah could see he was trying to find a way to salvage his little army along with his pride.

“Your men are either dead or wounded,” said Jesse, pushing buttons for the self proclaimed leader.

Steve looked over to where a pair of feet lay in the mud. Jesse saw him look and pointed to them. “There’s five more just like those.”

Weaver tapped Steve on the shoulder. “I’m done, Steve. We’ve been killed enough. My wife is in there. I don’t give a shit what you have to say about it. Two of those guys are mine, I’m calling it done. We’ve been chasing these people for no other reason than they managed to get the better of us when we were trying to bully them. It’s over. I’m getting my last guys out of here.”

Steve turned an angry shade. He pulled away from Weaver’s hand. “You asshole, this is about more than being pissed off, this is about maintaining control.”

“You’ve done a hell of a job at that,” mentioned Weaver.

“I don’t expect some jerk who’s been playing Army to understand this,” said Steve. “You’ve got no real understanding of the meaning of respect for the uniform—don’t you walk away from me.”

“It’s over,” said Weaver as he ambled away. He said it louder so the men in the barn could hear it. “It’s over!”

Steve growled a curse at Weaver and suddenly his M4 was up and firing. The rounds cut across Weavers broad back and the man pitched forward into the mud. Steve’s head expanded just as quickly, and a spray of brain, blood and bone misted out into the rainy air around Jesse and Hannah. His body suddenly went limp and fell to the watery driveway, splashing mud out as it hit. Hannah flinched away from the coppery mist and then glanced up to the loft where Chelsea knelt behind her rifle. A thin wisp of smoke rose out of the barrel. She set the weapon down next to her and nodded to Hannah. There were shouts from inside the barn and the sounds of a fight. Hannah limped as fast as her leg would allow her, and followed Jesse the short distance to the barn. The noise died as quickly as it had started.

She burst through the door with her rifle ready only to see Red and Jeffery disarming the remaining men. The three militia gunmen looked dejected as their rifles were stripped from them. Over head, Hank held the empty SKS pointed at the men, pretending that it was fully loaded. The only problem with the illusion was the toner had forgotten to let the bolt forward and the empty chamber was plainly seen to anyone who observed. He grinned at the two of them.

“’Bout time you showed up.”

“We got caught in the rain,” returned Hannah, moving to cover the men. “How’s everyone here?”

A shadow passed over Hank’s face. “We lost Brad, Paula and Nick.”

Hannah couldn’t place Nick. Then she remembered; Nick was one of the children, he was about nine. She shook her head in sorrow, knowing she had time to grieve later, but still feeling the sense of loss in her chest.

Hank climbed down the ladder as Red and Jeffery forced the men to their knees. Hank moved over next to Jesse and Hannah. Hannah gave him one of the pistols she had and he gratefully took it, dropping the useless SKS.

“What do we do with them?” asked Red.

Hannah pointed out one of the men. “That one, we tie up. He’s the one who hit Ted. The other two--.”

One of the men shook his head. “I didn’t do anything. I did what I was told.”

“So’d the Nazi’s,” retorted Hank, moving up to kick him. The man flinched away.

“Tie him up too,” said Jesse. He turned to the last one. “What about you?”

The man shrugged. “I did what I had too. You shoot at me, I shoot back.”

“At least he’s honest. Tie him too, we’ll march them inside until we can figure out what to do with them,” decided Jesse. “Let’s get our people down.”

The men were tied with baling twine and then with the rest of the group following they made their way into the house. The bodies of their three dead, they left in the barn until they could decide how they wanted to handle them, bury or burn, knew Hannah. The three militia men looked at the bodies of their comrades, one of the men sighed out a cry on seeing one of the wet shapes.

“That’s my brother--,” he said with a stricken look at Jesse and Hannah.

Hannah didn’t know what to say, so she just pointed her rifle at him to keep moving.

Jesse stopped to check the body of Weaver. He looked at Red who had stopped with him. “This guy’s still alive.”

“How alive?” asked Red.

Jesse shrugged. Red stepped up and placed the barrel of his rifle against the man’s head. He pulled the trigger and the shot echoed against the walls of the buildings. Jesse stared at him.

“He’s the one who shot Nick,” shrugged Red walking away, still speaking over his shoulder. “Nick was just running to get behind a hay bale. That fuck shot him down. Beside, I just finished the job started by someone else.”

Jesse stood and with a final glance at the two bodies, he waved at the weapons lying in the mud. “Somebody should pick those up.”

Chelsea, the last person out of the barn, snagged the two rifles as she walked by. “Hi, Jesse,” she said. “You okay?”

Shaking his head, Jesse seemed lost for the proper words. “I don’t think so, girl. Don’t know if I ever will be.”

Chelsea stripped the ammo from the men along with their gunbelts. “You’ll be fine. Nothing that some sleep and food won’t cure.”

Hannah watched as the little girl walked passed her with the accoutrements of War hanging from her shoulder. Chelsea greeted Hannah with the same happy voice that she had spoken to Jesse in and kept walking. Jesse stopped beside Hannah.

“What have we created?” he wondered.

Hannah didn’t have an answer for him. They followed the group into the house, Hannah eager to find out Stacy’s condition. She worried about the children and just what they were doing to their developing minds. On the steps, Hannah paused and looked out over the field.

Where the hell was Owen?



Owen leaned against the tree and watched the field that separated him from the farm. He was just inside the tree line, far enough back that the casual observer would not see him and anyone really looking would have to check twice. It had been several minutes since he’d sent the naked man running for his life. He cocked his cowboy hat back slightly to let the rain fall off the rear of the brim and wash down the back of his leather jacket. The jacket was getting soaked, and the cold from the rain was uncomfortable on his spine. Across his lap lay the MAC-10, the bolt open to the weather, the brass of the .45 case glinted at him in the gray afternoon. He had his three pistols, his bowie knife and tanto blade. He had ammo for the weapons, the mags for the MAC-10 and pistols had been topped off, by his side was the BOB that Jesse had made him put together. He had survived with less.

Off to his right, trussed up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey was the man he had knocked out. The man was awake now, glaring at Owen over the gag in his mouth. Blood covered his neck and back form the blow. Owen wasn’t too concerned about the blood, head wounds tended to bleed a lot. He was more concerned that the man might have a concussion and a head injury in these times was something to be careful about. The man’s clothing was piled up neatly under his head and his boots were hanging from a low branch of the tree. Owen was concerned for a moment after hitting the man. The length of oak he’d used was stout, and the man’s head had made a hollow sound like a drum on connecting with the heavy branch. The other man had been wide eyed and scared at Owen’s sudden appearance beside him. Owen had almost laughed at the ol’ boys expression. Many years of stalking and hunting skittish deer and wild boar had giving Owen the skill he needed to move quietly and remain unseen when needed. He had been surprised that the men had both walked right passed him as he stood near the trunk of a big tree, and even more amazed they had not heard his cowboy boots in the ground behind them. But then, most people didn’t know how to look through the woods, or how to listen.

Owen suddenly wanted a cigarette.

He hadn’t smoked in years. Not since his senior year in High School when his father had passed from lung cancer. They said it was probably from his coal job, but Owen had watched the man smoke two packs a day as long as he could remember. He’d tossed his last pack of cigarettes on top of the old man’s grave. Not that the man would have cared to begin with; Owen had never seemed to meet his expatiations as a son. On graduating, Owen had bid goodbye to his still grieving mother and he and his best friend had moved up to Mansfield to work in a factory, then that job fell apart when the factory closed and the friend went back to West Virginia. Owen stayed because he had nothing to go back to West Virginia for.

Night shift at the place in Loudonville, a two room apartment in Lucas, a beat up truck and then the end of the world.

Then Hannah.

Damn she was fine.

Owen glanced over the field and saw the naked man returning with four others in tow. He shifted slightly and looked over at the bound man.

“Look’s like ya’lls friends didn’t take me serious,” Owen told him. The man growled a response through the gag. “They’ll be here soon to get ya.”

Owen stood and slung the MAC over his shoulder and across his chest. He picked up the M4 that he had decided to take with him and the bandolier of magazines for it. The other weapon, an AK47, Owen picked up as well. He didn’t want to leave it where it could be found. He’d already dumped the magazines out, scattering the rounds on the ground. If bullets grew trees, in ten years this would have been the place to look. The man’s boots; Owen took off the branch and tossed them as far into the woods as he could, throwing them in separate directions.

Owen paused to shoulder the BOB as well and decided that he’d dump the AK as soon as he could. He was carrying way too much gear. There was a round of gunfire from the farm. Owen paused and stared at the buildings. He could see people running.

“Gate’s open,” whispered Owen. He sighed. “Tell your folks they got about a half hour ‘fore I take action.”

Owen melted into the trees.

Once he felt he was far enough back, Owen hung the AK from a broken branch and settled it against the tree trunk so it would not swing and attract attention. He took a look at his surroundings, noting unique landmarks so if needed, he could find the rifle again. He then continued to move, his path running parallel with the tree line. Owen did not want to get too far away from the farm. There were more shots echoing through the woods. It sounded a little like opening day of deer season on public lands. Owen paused and listened. He could hear shouts and curses coming from the direction where the man had been tied up. They crashed into the woods, not even trying to cover the noise of their entrance. Gauging where they were, Owen moved a little further back into the trees, careful to avoid breaking too many branches or to crunch too many leaves under foot. With the noise they were making they likely wouldn’t have heard him anyway, but he played it safe, using a downed tree as a foot path to change directions just in case they had someone who might be able to track with them.

The rain continued to patter through the leaves and to the forest floor.

Owen found a likely spot to hole up and eased between the trunks of the trees. Behind him was a thick stand of new growth, and the two old ancients he took cover behind were perfect shields against the inept eyes of those who looked for him. Setting the M4 and bandolier down near his leg, Owen took up his baby, the MAC and waited for the men to appear.

They were strung out in a line, bumbling along and tripping over limbs that were on the forest floor. Other than kicking at bushes and peeking under some logs, Owen could not see that they were executing a very effective skirmish line. They had too much space between them and were moving too fast. Owen was betting the only reason they were on his trail at the moment was luck. He waited until they were past him, the man who was supposed to be checking the area Owen hid simply tried to peer between the trunks and walk halfway around. Owen shifted slightly to keep his body from view and that was it. The backing of the heavy new growth deterred the looker from pushing any further. Obviously the man’s interest was not in finding a lone gunman, but to get back to the farm as quickly as possible. He actually glanced at Owen once and was distracted by a fresh rattle of gunfire from the direction of the house. Owen simply melted aside and was no longer there when the man looked.

When they were a few yards past him, Owen picked up the M4 and watched until they had a thicket between them. He moved out in their wake, keeping the trunks of trees between himself and the man he stalked. The man was struggling to keep up with the group, his concentration on the others of his group, rather than his surroundings. Without a word, Owen literally stepped in the mans steps and pressed the M4 against his head. The man stopped and Owen heard him urinate, the liquid spattering through the fabric of his camo pants to hit against the leaves.

“Make a sound,” whispered Owen. “And you’re dead.”

The man nodded. Owen took the man’s rifle from limp hands.

“Get on your knees,” he ordered as he placed the rifle against a downed tree.

The man slowly eased to his knees. Owen had the man put his hands on top of his head, and used a short length of twine to tie them together. Owen took a strip of the cloth he’d torn from the naked man’s shirt back in the beginning, knotted it and gagged the man. With a glance to be sure they did not yet miss the man, Owen leaned forward and pressed the M4 against the man’s head again.

“Strip your pants and boots off. Toss the boots away,” said Owen. “You turn around, I’ll shoot you in the face. Got it?”

The man nodded and gingerly unlaced his boots with his bound hands trembling. Owen began to back away. The boots were thrown a good distance, which made Owen smile. Taking the man’s rifle and the gunbelt when he removed it, Owen threw them as far as he could. The man stripped off his pants. Owen grabbed them and tossed them as well.

“Ya’ll tell you’re boys that I’ve let three of ya live now,” said Owen. “They don’t give up, I’m gonna start killin’ ‘em and they won’t even know it. Got it?”

A burst of gunfire made the man flinch. Owen glanced in the direction of the farm house, then back to the man.

The man was still nodding as Owen disappeared back into the woods.

He ran a short distance to gain some ground and then moved along a downed tree before starting to ease through the trees once again. He heard a noise and tried to pin point the direction. Owen paused, the M4 held ready. Through the undergrowth, he saw a figure lurch against the hold of a branch, the shape struggled to keep its direction, unwilling to simply back away and move around the offending limb that held it at bay. It groaned and was answered.

Owen began to swear. He glanced back in the direction he’d come. The sounds of the searchers were far away, but he could hear the man whose pants he’d taken struggle through the wood to find his clothing. Making a decision, Owen ran back to the man.

The man saw Owen coming this time, and with wild eyes and his face going pale, turned from his search to try and run from the gunman. He made it just a few steps and then fell to the ground. Owen caught up with him and knelt next to him, freeing his tanto blade and touching the edge to the twine, which separated under the blade. The man stared at Owen, who handed him the M4 and bandolier.

“Zombies,” whispered Owen, swinging his MAC up. “Ya’ll can run or shoot me, the choice is yours.”

The man jerked the gag out of his mouth. “I just want the fuck outta here.”

Owen nodded. “Follow me.”

“Move slow, I ain’t got boots,” reminded the man.

Owen gave a tight smile and looked around. He spied one of the boots. “Over there, I’ll get the other.”

The man did as he was bid and Owen found the other boot caught in a tangle of bushes. He returned to where the man was pulling on the boot. Owen tossed it down to him and turned on hearing more branches breaking. It was the other men returning to find their comrade. They raised their rifles on seeing Owen standing over their partner. The man on the ground brought his rifle up as well.

“Jim, what the fuck’re you doing?” demanded one of the others.

The man Owen had come back for struggled to his feet to stand beside Owen. “There’s Zombies headed this way, Marty, he came back to help me after he could’ve left me for dead. He could’ve killed me the first time he caught me. Hell, he could have killed you, Mitch, and you Brook. But he didn’t. I’m sick of this shit, I’m goin’ back with him. We’re gonna go back. I’m getting’ my wife and kid and we’re done with this shit.”

“But they killed men, Jim.”

“Men that fuckin’ shot at them,” returned Jim. “I was there too.”

A spattering of gunfire came to them then a final shot and all was quiet.

“Listen to that, they’ve probably killed each other off,” plead Jim. “Just drop this. We don’t need any more dead bodies in the world”

The silence from the farm was very loud. All the heads turned as a moan penetrated the woods.

“Fuck this,” agreed Mitch. “I’m outta here.”

“We were given orders,” snarled a man with an angry scar on his face.

“Fuck your orders, Rick” said Mitch. He looked at the others. “If any of you want to try and kill this guy, then do it now before we get eaten. Perry, you want to try, Marty?”

The two men he called out both shook their heads. Mitch nodded, starting to shiver in the rain. “Fine, then lets get out of here.”

They all started to move in the direction of the farm, casting fearful glances over shoulders as the woods started to become alive with the groans of the undead. Owen cast a glance over his shoulder and saw Rick still standing there, shaking his head.

“Let’s go,” encouraged Owen.

A couple of the men turned to see who Owen was taking too. They flung curses at the man to hurry up. He shook his head again.

“No. Fuck this. I got orders.” Rick raised his rifle at Owen.

Owen saw the rifle come up and even as he saw it, the MAC was in his hand. Brass filled the air for a brief moment and the rounds hammered Rick in the chest and neck. Rick fell to the forest floor without another sound. Owen stared at the MAC for an instant, then let it fall to the end of the sling. He wiped his hands off on his shirt, but could not erase the sensation of the weapon firing.

“Jesus,” muttered Mitch. “You were fuckin’ fast. He had the drop on you.”

“Let’s go,” said Owen, turning to guide the men out of the woods.

They fell in behind him and the race to beat the dead began.



Hannah was about to step into the house when she saw the men running across the field. They were at full tilt, their weapons bouncing in rhythm with their arms, and all of them intent on one thing; getting to the farm. She recognized Owen in the mix, his cowboy hat setting him apart from the others as they ran. He wasn’t running form them, or chasing them, rather he was in the middle of the group, trying hard to edge the others out. Through the trees she saw the reason for their foot race; the undead began to boil from the wood, a dozen, then twenty, then too many to count in just a pause. Swearing, Hannah ran into the house yelling for Jesse and the others.

Inside, the people who could were holding tearful reunions, family and lovers reunited in happy groups while those who had lost family and friends did the same only with tears and angry cries. Many of the people cast looks of revulsion at the conquerors, blaming them, and in some cases rightfully so, for the deaths of their people. The townspeople and Hannah’s group were warily at the edges of the scene, weapons held ready in case of more violence for the newest perceived assault against the militia members. As she pushed through the crowd, Hannah wished they would suddenly remember that the reason they were weaponless and huddled in corners was the fact they had attacked Hannah and friends. She saw Isaac standing near the table, watching as they put what appeared to be the finishing touches on Stacy’s wound, Absently, Hannah wondered how her friend was fairing, then sent a quick prayer to whoever was in charge of this debacle for her safe recovery. She then pushed those thoughts from her mind and called to Jesse again.

Jesse came to her, his face set angrily and demanded to know why she was yelling. Hannah pointed to the door.

“Owen’s coming back with those other guys,” she said. “They have company.”

“Company?” asked Jesse, his face registering that he already knew the answer to his own question. She nodded. He turned to the crowded room, surveying the gathered and trying to decide how far he should trust the new captives. Calling to Red, Jesse pulled the man aside and Hannah followed. “Get those people upstairs, for now, we’ll leave them without weapons unless it just come down that we need them.”

Red stared at the people who were starting to realize that something was afoot. The militia members had been made to leave their firearms in the kitchen when the entered and Hannah imagined they were now starting to feel the absence of the weapons. “If they give me problems?”

“Beat ‘em down,” decided Jesse. “We don’t have the time to be friendly with them. It their fault they’re here in this situation to begin with.”

Red nodded and turned to motion to Pete and Jeffery. The started to herd the militia people up the stairs with harsh words and shoves. Hannah turned away from the scene.

“Are we any better than them right now?” she asked Jesse.

The older man turned on her. “Better? No, we’re no fuckin’ better, Hannah. We’re just the winners, is all. They did the same thing to us, remember? I didn’t ask them to come here.”

“We could be more, compassionate,” phrased Hannah. “We don’t need to treat them the way they did us.”

“Do we really have time to debate all this?” asked Jesse.

“No, but we could do it differently.”

“How?”

Waving a hand at the people being herded up the stairs, Hannah spoke in what she hope was a clam voice. “Let them know what is going on, Jesse, give them an option. There’s a couple people who might actually decide to help us out. They’ve got three medical people; we don’t need to alienate them.”

Nodding in agreement, Jesse sighed. “Fine, we’ll be better than them.”

Hannah smiled at him in thanks and turned to the people in the room. “Listen up,” she called and waited for everyone to stop what they were doing. “There’s about forty of us here, we need you all upstairs so that we can move around down here. There’s Zombies on the way over the fields, they are following some of our people and yours. They were brought by the gunfire. We have a deal for those of you who want to forget for the moment that we were just shooting at each other and killing each other.”

Looking over at Jesse, he nodded for her to go on. “We’ll rearm those of you who take an oath to us. You’ll be put upstairs to fire out of the windows if needed. Naturally, some of our people will be there to make sure you behave.”

“Behave?” came a voice. “What the heel does that mean?”

“That means. The first time you look sideways at us, you loose that gun,” said Jesse. “Then when this is over, we leave you to fend for yourself.”

“You just killed six of us,” snarled the voice. Hannah looked for the speaker. It was the skinny man who Steve had called his lieutenant, Berry Fuches. She singled him out from the crowd.

“Ah, the estimable Lieutenant Berry,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “One of the ring leaders of the Kangaroo Court spouting bullshit about the first Continental Military Hearing of the United States Army. Were you even in the military?”

Someone sniggered. Berry turned red.

“You like Hitler, went from corporal to dictator in one swoop?” Hannah saw he did not like the Hitler comparison. She continued anyway. “Whose idea was it to hunt us down and attack us? Did you consult you’re people in a democratic way? Did they even know what the fuck was going on? You should have included them a little since you were so eager to set yourself up as a legitimate government to us, when you wanted to kill us for defending ourselves. Remember, you attacked us first; you attacked us first every time.”

Some of the women were drawing away from Berry, the men cast doubting glances at him as he searched for his retort.

“I was appointed to my position,” said Berry. “I was the most qualified for the job.”

“Appointed, by who? General Steve? There’s a little Nazi for you.” Hannah looked at the women, seizing on something she had noticed, but had not comprehended until just his moment. “How many of you were told you couldn’t help defend your own homes because you were women? Do you want to be a part of a ‘Continental America’ that digresses a hundred years back to slavery and second class citizenship? Before this crap, how many of you were administration or in charge of businesses? Now Berry and his ilk are telling you you’re only good enough to cook, do dishes and have babies.”

“Don’t forget gather wood for the fire,” called one. There was scattered laughter, but there was no humor in the sound.

“What about those of us who lost people to you?” demanded one woman, her face swollen and eyes red from crying. “You killed my man. Gunned him down in the mud like a dog.”

“I’m sorry,” said Hannah, not knowing what else to say. “I can only tell you that I could only defend myself. My life is more important to me.”

“Is that why you want us to help you now?’ she returned in a shrill voice. “To save your ass?”

“No,” countered Hannah. “This is to save your ass. The more guns we can put out there, the better chances we have. The more willing we are to work together, the more of us will survive to see an end to all this.”

“Your man was a dog,” muttered another woman. “The only reason you don’t have a black eye right now is because he didn’t have time to beat you in the last couple days.”

“I loved him,” shrieked the woman.

“He was a good fuck,” said the second woman. “He made sure to try it out on people other than you. You were just his whipping post.”

The crying woman tried to launch herself at the speaker, but she was restrained by several other people. She burst into tears and collapsed on the floor.

Hannah pointed to her. “Is this what you want to return to, a time when violence against women is a ‘family matter’ and no one does shit to stop it? Did you know that the man they followed here had a young girl locked up in a dog cage for a sex slave? Is that what you want for your daughters?”

The people looked at Berry, who had no defense for the actions of David. His expression was that he did not know what David had done, nor did he care at this point. Berry felt the crowd shift away from him and tried to bring them back by shifting the subject away from the sanctioned actions of his government. “We don’t have to stay in this house, we can get in those vehicles out there and drive off. There’s no need for this ‘last stand’ mentality.”

“In case you didn’t notice, many of those cars no longer have tires thanks to that little gunbattle,” cut in Jesse. “How are you going to pick who rides, and who fights your cover action? Draw straws, or is the Government of Continental America going to pick. I assume since you’re the last of that hierarchy you’ll be in the fastest car out of here.”

The people all stared at Berry to see what his retort was going to be. He shook his head in frustration and crossed his arms over his chest, signifying that Jesse had not been too far off the mark with his supposition.

“How about the leader Berry followed?” said Ted, adding his comment to the discussion. “How many of you guys say Steve kill Weaver when he said that this was over? He shot him in the back.”

Weaver’s wife looked at Berry for conformation. Berry refused to meet her gaze. Hannah hoped that no one other than her and Jesse had seen Red put the final bullet in the man’s head. Thankfully, that particular issue was not raised. Weaver’s wife pushed up next to Berry.

“Is that true?” she demanded, tears starting to run down the side of her face. “My husband surrendered and you all killed him for it? He was a good man. He had ideas, he was warm and funny and you killed him for his compassion?”

She slapped Berry, who was rocked by the blow. Berry came back as if to hit her back, but was stopped by one of the men who had been in the barn.

“It’s true,” admitted the man to Weaver’s wife.

The tide was chanced for good at that statement.

“What’s this oath we gotta take?” asked one of the men. Hannah recognized Dan’s voice.

Jesse smiled. “It’s a simple one really, one that you might have forgotten recently; it’s called the Pledge of Allegiance.”

That one even caught Hannah off guard. Jesse continued to talk. “Anyone who takes this oath doesn’t pledge to me, or a new government, they simply say that they will uphold the ideals that made us citizens of the United States. That’s what we are, no matter how much stupidity we engage in. Even if those of us in this room are the only ones left alive, we’re still Americans. We need to stand as such.”

People began to look at Berry, seeing in his stance of crossed arms and scowling face what he stood for and several of them raised hands, stepping away from the angry man.

“I lost a brother out there,” said one, motioning to the muddy drive beyond the walls. “But he was in the military, and he was in it for more than just a paycheck. He did two tours over in Iraq, and got shot once. Why we followed these fools, I don’t know. I guess they seemed to be the only ones with a plan after Lt. Hope died. I’ll take that pledge. It’s worth it to me.”

Others stepped forward. Some were talked into it by friends; one woman cast a scathing look at Hannah, saying that her husband was dead because of her, but that the USA was more important right now. Even the bully Ned stepped up to take the pledge. The only people not taking the oath were Berry, a woman who seemed to be either his wife or girlfriend, one of the militia guards and the crying woman on the ground. They were escorted to a room and locked in, separated from the others by the consequences of their own decision.

Ted ran to the basement and came back up carrying a folded flag. The banner was unfurled and tacked to the wall over their heads as the people turned to face the symbol of their country. Hannah felt a moment of pride and sadness on seeing the tri-colored flag raised up.

Jesse looked at the assembled people and told them to raise their right hands. Their voices tentative at first and then stronger as they dusted off the words they had learned to ignore.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag….”
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:40 pm

Owen paused to look behind him. The others rushed past not stopping to see why he had stopped. The last man in line, the naked man, had a fearful look on his face, like he was about out of steam and not going to make it much further. He was not longer naked, having pulled on pants and a shirt, but he would forever be the naked guy to Owen. From the tree line Owen could see the undead emerging by ones and two, then forming a ragged line drawn to the scent of warm flesh, or the sound of gunfire. Owen grasped the MAC, his hands taking up the familiar weapon that was now blooded. He absently wondered what Hannah would say when she discovered that he had broken his own vow to not kill a living person. The sensation of the MAC firing still lingered, and Owen sighed the worry away. He could deal with the issue later. As the naked man came even with him, Owen fell in beside him.

“Ya’ll got it,” encouraged Owen. “No much further.”

“Might as well be a mile,” huffed the man. “My feet are killing me.”

Owen glanced down and saw that he was wearing only socks. “What happened to your boots?”

“Couldn’t find them.”

“Sorry,” said Owen.

The man staggered to a walk. “I’m done.”

“Com’on,” said Owen.

“You go. I’m done.”

“Nope, you’ll make it.”

“You’ll have to drag me.”

“Then I will,” Owen told him. “Let’s go, pick up the pace.”

“My feet are killing me,” said the man. A moan sounded behind them.

They glanced back and saw that a group of the undead were closing on them. Owen wondered how that was possible. He pressed the safety forward and pulled the bolt back on the MAC. The man attempted to move faster, but gave up, wincing at the pain in his feet. He began to shake his head, tears running silently down his face.

“Go, I’ll hold them off you,” said the man indicating the pistol he held.

“How much ammo you got for that thing?” asked Owen.

“The mag that’s in it,” admitted the man.

“You’re Mitch, right?”

“At your service.”

“Well, Mitch, keep walking,” said Owen, starting back toward the Zombies that staggered after them.

“Where the hell you going?” asked Mitch.

“To give you time to make it,” said Owen. He grinned at the man and pulled his Cowboy hat down over his forehead. “I’ll catch up.”

The man stood for a second as Owen started at the undead, and then a long groan from one of the staggering ghouls made Mitch begin his painful trek toward the house. As he moved, Owen took several deep breaths, filling his lungs each time and holding the air for a moment before exhaling. He brought the MAC up and caught the front post in his vision, then picked the closest Zombie.

Many people thought of the MAC-10 as an inaccurate weapon, this was true, if you tried to fire it full auto from fifty yards at a head sized target. The weapon was considered by many to be a bullet hose, which it could be, and with a rate of fire that, depending on the ammo and weapon could exceed 1100 round a minute, that meant that it could conceivable dump it’s 30 round magazine in less than two seconds. The key to a MAC, to any full auto weapon was learning the sear. In the right hands, and Owen’s were the right hands, it could be fired from that distance and make consistent hits. It was all about trigger control and practice. Since the End of the World, Owen’d had plenty of both.

He pressed the trigger as he moved, the boxy full auto popping out two rounds in quick succession through the two stage suppressor. The heavy bullets impacted in the targets head, making it fall to the ground before a moan could escape its damaged mouth. Quickly, Owen reacquired the next in line, not bothering to focus totally on the ruined head of the woman, not seeing the decaying flesh that hung in strips off the broken cheek and the hair that protruded in wild strands around the milky, sightless eyes. The single .45 caliber bullet took the thing in the hollow cheek, snapping its head to one side, redirecting it as it staggered under the impact of the slug. Since it did not go down, two more heavy bullets tore into the hardening skull, blowing the dark grey mass out in chunks.

Owen was already on the move to the next target.

He side stepped to redirect the march of the relentless foes, putting distance between himself and the things, while at the same time causing them to stagger as whatever impulse kept them upright tried to reacquire the warmth he emanated. Another fell to the burp of the MAC, then another and Owen moved in yet another direction, pulling the ghouls with him as he moved. The numbers of the dead were quickly growing.

Taking a stance, Owen brought the MAC fully up to his shoulder and began to fire controlled bursts with the weapon. The monsters fell with each one and two round snap of the trigger. Owen cleared a space in front of him and moved again, swapping out magazines as he did so, stowing the empty in the mag pouch on his leg, feed lips up so he would not confuse it with a full one on a reload.

The smell of the undead was starting to wafted to him through the now misty rain. He did not pause to count the numbers that faced him, rather scanned for the next likely spot to take his stand, all the while the MAC was up and firing, decimating the foes as they appeared before him. He side stepped one that got too close, pressing him with outstretched hands and a tooth snapping groan. A single shot stopped the beast, but another took its place. Owen danced back, laughing at the things as they tripped over the bodies of their comrades. He fired at the newest threat, then turned and ran a short distance, destroying two more of the things which had succeeded in moving behind him. Spinning back to the now massive horde that followed, Owen fired a sustained burst into the level of the heads around him, emptying the magazine as several of the things fell to the bullets that flew on silent wings into the stinking mob. He happily watched as things behind the front line fell from bullets that had not spent energy annihilating the original targets.

Swapping out mags again, Owen mentally took count of what he had left. Three mags for the MAC, his pistols and four mags for each of them. Then it was down to the Bowie and tanto blade. He hoped it would not come to those. Shooting yet another reaching undead, Owen skipped backwards a few steps, shooting several more of the clutching things and then racing in a different direction as the beasts surged to follow. The change in bearing made some of them fall and the result was much like a domino effect, others tripped over the fallen and created a gap in the mass of the thronged Zombies, into which Owen ran, shooting to each side as the things tried to compensate for yet another misdirection. At his feet the downed ghouls grabbed for his ankles, causing Owen to high step through, making him wonder at the rashness of his action for just a moment. He fired at the four fiends that blocked his escape, gunning down two of them for just enough of a space to break free and run for the wood. As he passed the remaining two, he felt hands clutch at his jacket, the fingernails hard claws which threatened to slow his retreat. Owen twisted out of the combined grasp of the monsters, shooting one as he did so. The MAC was empty and Owen unholstered two of his pistols as the weapon dropped to the end of the sling.

Howling out a single groan of frustration, the undead horde surged to follow him. Their stinking mass tripping over those already down in the muddy field and struggling to return upright. Owen stopped in his run, turned and fired at those that were close enough to justify the attention, switching from one pistol to the other depending on the side the creatures appeared. The explosions of the pistols were a disconcerting change from the silenced operation of the MAC. Not that it mattered, the mass of undead fiends were focused solely on his actions. He turned again and crashed into the woods, weaving between trees while he moved. He slowed to look around himself, realizing that he was near where he had tossed the man, Jim’s, equipment. He remembered one of the things he had tossed was a full pistol belt and an AK47 variant. Quickly holstering his own pistols, Owen scanned the ground for the weapons as he moved, hearing the Zombies begin to crash through the woods behind him. The noise of the undead spurred Owen onward, and just as he was about to move on, he spied the rifle. Snagging it up, Owen moved in the opposite direction since that was the way he had tossed the belt. He found the belt snagged in a bush and jerked the thing loose, pausing long enough to buckle the belt and sling it around his chest like a bandolier.

A moan erupted next to him.

The longer barrel of the AK caught the beast in the mouth and Owen pulled the trigger. The close range blast exploded the things head apart, showering dark, thick blood, bone and brain into the air and on the Zombie behind it. The second fell to the .30 caliber round that Owen sent toward it and then Owen was on the move.

He ran parallel once again to the tree line, keeping the farm within reasonable distance as he moved. The dead continued their single minded pursuit of the man, fighting the thick elements of the forest as they moved, intent on straight lines of attack, rather than simply moving around the obstacles in their path. Several times, Owen stopped and picked off the dead that followed him, taking shots with the rifle that he could not have made with the MAC. He was nearly one for each shot when he had to reload. Unfamiliar with the weapon, Owen had to decipher the latch as he ran, dropping the magazine to the forest floor rather than saving it for the sake of time. He found a mag pouch on the belt, holding three of the curved mags. Pulling one free, Owen struggled to rock it in place, then let out a sigh as it snapped in the well. He jerked the bolt and fired into a crowd of the undead that had closed the gap. Two of them fell, the others continued, the rounds hitting chests and necks from the snap shooting he’d forced himself to do.

Swearing, Owen took his time and made the last three fall as well. He was nearing the edge of the woods, and ducked out of the undergrowth back into the field, happy that the forest had slowed the things down. Taking a moment to get his bearings, Owen was pleasantly surprised to see that the things were still trying to enter the woods where he had ducked into the trees. With a smile, Owen headed toward the ghouls that had their backs to him, and began to shoot at them, walking and firing, aiming the AK at the decomposed heads, enjoying the mist of goo erupting from each shot. Several of the Zombies started to turn toward him, but they fell before they could complete the turn. Owen fired the last of the magazine into those struggling to turn back from the woods and then spun around to race across the field and back to the farm house. He reloaded as he ran, feeling much better about his day.





The five men burst in to the house as they were preparing for the siege. Rifles were being reissued to the owners, and the five men paused in the kitchen, unsure of how to react to the situation, having seen the bodies of their comrades laying in the drive. Hannah stepped up since Jesse was positioning people in firing assignments upstairs.

“We’re in the United States now, so if you’re a part of the Continental America group, you better head for the barn.”

The men stared at her as those who had taken the oath slowly backed her up. One man, Perry, looked at his former companions and frowned.

“What the hell is she talking about?”

Dan spoke up. “The hostilities have ended, Steve is no longer in charge and we’ve decided that his pretend government has been over thrown for a more traditional pattern of rule. Majority. What she means is if you want to still play army, get out.”

The five men looked at each other for a long second. Mitch, still huffing from exertion made a rude sound at the others. “When that cowboy didn’t kill me, that was enough for me to say good riddance to Steve. ‘Spically after the bastard slapped me and made me run back across that field without clothes on. Besides, that cowboy, he’s given all of us a pretty good reason to join you all; he’s still out there fighting those things so we could make it here.”

Hannah pushed past the men and outside. She searched the field, seeing only that the undead were staggering back into the woods. She saw no sign of Owen. Hannah raced back inside and grabbed up her BOB and more ammo for her M4. Jesse had come back down the stairs, while Dan was gathering the five survivors together, giving them a very fast version of what had happened since they had been stumbling through the woods after Owen. The doctor guy, Hannah still didn’t know his name, was looking at Mitch’s feet, gingerly pulling off the socks that were ragged and bloody. After a pause to listen to Dan, Jesse came over to Hannah.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to help Owen.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Owen’s out there by himself, trying to keep those things away from here. I’m going out to see what I can do for him.”

There was a series of rapid shots and then silence. Jesse stopped Hannah. “You are in no shape to go wandering through the woods. You can move just well enough to get yourself trapped and killed.”

“He needs help.”

Jesse gave her a grim laugh. “If anyone doesn’t need help killing things, it’s Owen.”

“Well, if you won’t let me go, then you go.”

Sighing, Jesse nodded. “Fine.” He turned to look over the crowd of people, trying to decide who to ask to back him up.

“Take Hank,” suggested Hannah.

“Hank,” called Jesse. “Grab up that AR that’s got the silencer we just repacked and the MP5.”

Chelsea appeared with the silenced .22.”I want to go.”

“I need you here to cover me,” said Jesse.

“You just think I’ll get hurt.”

“Yep,” agreed Jesse, taking the MP5 from Hank. “So do what I tell you.”

Chelsea backed away and pouted. Hannah put an arm over her shoulder. “He won’t let me go either.”

Chelsea smiled up at her and returned the hug. The little girl was so messed up.

Hannah turned with all the others as the door banged open and Owen strode in, his face split by a grin when he saw everyone staring at him. In the distance there was a roll of thunder to accompany his slamming of the door. Someone jumped and let out a small cry of surprise. A nervous laugh sounded across the room.

“You should really have someone on that door,” he drawled, breathing hard from his run to the house.

“You’re okay!” squealed Chelsea, running and throwing her arms around him. He laughed and hugged her past the weapons hanging from his body.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” agreed Owen. “Why are we standin’ around?”

“We were comin’ to get you,” replied Jesse.

“I had it handled. We should really be moving though,” said Owen with a glance at the door. “I got them tangled up in the woods, but they won’t stay that way.”

Dan stepped up and looked at the gore covered man. “You bit?”

“Not that I know of,” admitted Owen.

With a nod of his head, he indicated where the doctor was splinting Isaac’s hand and Donna was bandaging Mitch’s feet. Owen shrugged and began to shed the weapons, Chelsea helping him as he moved, Hannah followed, while Jesse assigned Hank to the door. Jesse eased off his jacket and sat in a chair nearby. Hannah gasped at the blood on his shirt under the jacket. Owen stared at it for a moment, his face a mask of fear. He slowly pulled the shirt away from the bloody shoulder as one of the former militia pointed a rifle at him.

“Fuck, that shotgun wound is open again,” sighed Owen in relief as he exposed the makeshift care provided by Jesse. Dan shook his head and waved the rifle down.

“I was concerned for a moment.”

“Shit, how’d you think I felt?” laughed Owen. He was quickly checked for broken skin and when all was declared fine, he submitted to the pseudo-doctors care. Hannah saw movement by the door, and watched as Jesse and Ted went outside the house. Their voices were muffled by the rain and thunder that seemed to have joined the torrential skies above. Jesse returned, wet and nodding to himself. Others stared at him, all anxious to hear what event was now going to befall them. Jesse called the people near. The room quickly filled with anxious faces as he spoke.

“It’s started rainin’ again, and it appears the dead have lost the scent,” said Jesse. “We have a choice, we can stick it here, see what happens, or we can get as many of those tires changed now, in the rain, and move on.”

The murmur of voices rose and fell. Dan spoke for the militia. “We say let’s move on. This place has seen too much death.”

Jesse now looked at the gathered of the people that had come with him through all of the trials and triumphs, the battles and losses. Hannah felt that in that moment she could read his mind. She nodded for him to continue. He smiled at her and spoke.

“We have a place we can go; it’s not a sure thing, but it’s a very strong possibility that we can be safe, live as a community and be able to ride this thing out. Those of you who want to follow us are welcome, those of you who don’t head another direction.” Jesse paused. “If you leave us, you leave with what you came with. This stuff here, all of it belongs to Ted. His father left it to him. He’s with us, and so it goes with us.”

Another surge of voices filled the room, both that of those who had come with Hannah and Jesse and those of the former militia as the pros and cons were debated. Finally, Dan shouted them down.

“We don’t have much time people, those of you who want to stick with them, stay here, everyone else, you can go to the library room.” No one moved. Dan looked at Jesse. “I guess you’re in charge then.”

Jesse nodded. “Let’s get those tires on.”

Men and women poured out into the rain to help. Hannah, since she was injured, and Owen and Isaac, since they were as well, were all assigned to keep watch. Hannah eased nest to Isaac as she kept an eye on the undead that wandered the field and woods, now lost from the lack of scent and ambient noise distracting them. The things shuffled and moaned, making her nerves feel frayed.

“How is Stacy?”

“Passed out,” said Isaac, worried. “The doctor guy said she could live, or she could die, it was pretty much up to her at the moment without real medical help to give her. The wound was straight through, but it could get infected from a little piece of dirt or a thread he missed cleaning it out. All we can do is wait.”

Hannah sighed and shifted her rifle. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Isaac moved uncomfortably. “You and Owen got a thing?”

Giving him a short harsh laugh, Hannah struggled for words. Did they? She pondered this for a second and then shook her head. “I don’t think so. Why?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“Being stupid,” said Isaac, looking even more uncomfortable as he spoke.

“Well, at the moment, I’m not sure you should even entertain any thoughts about me,” suggested Hannah. “I’m kind of gun shy after having to kill the last guy I slept with.”

Isaac whistled. “That was blunt.”

“That was true.”

They leaned back against the wall of the house to escape some of the rain under the eve.

“You ever think about what will happen next?”

“What do you mean,” clarified Hannah. “What if this suddenly stops and we’re left with all these bodies and no place to put them?”

Grinning, Isaac nodded. “Sort of. That and what do we do about punishment for those of us who have killed others?” He suddenly became serious as he spoke. “Is the slate wiped clean, or do we stand trial like in some big massive war crimes witch hunt? Are we going to have to justify what we’ve done to people who might have very well done the same thing, but because of their positions, they are now able to pass judgment on the rest of us? I just don’t see a happy way out of all this, Hannah.”

“I doubt there will be,” she agreed. “It will take generations maybe, to totally give this some kind of morality that can be lived with. We’re assuming that the human race will even make beyond us.”

“I’d like to think it will, in some form or fashion.”

“The real question is this; what are children like Chelsea going to be like in another five years, or even next month?” stated Hannah. “We are very good at saying that the children are the future, so what kind of future are they going to be? When you or I get too old to help stand guard, will they put us down? The way we’re raising them at this moment, if you can’t help out or contribute to the cause, you’re gone.”

Isaac had nothing to add to that other than; “I hope Chelsea likes me.”

“It might come down to something that simple,” agreed Hannah. “Scary.”

Hank came around the corner. “Jesse says get ready to move. We’re putting Stacy and that other hurt guy in the bus in hammocks we’ve rigged to keep them from bouncing around too much.”

Isaac started to follow him and then stopped when he remembered he was supposed to be guarding with Hannah and Owen. Hannah waved him off. “Go, we’ve got this.”

Smiling, Isaac followed hank to be sure that Stacy was safely moved.

Owen eased over and took Isaac’s spot. “He’s pretty sweet on you.”

Shaking her head, Hannah gave him the same laugh she had given Isaac. “It’ll go away.”

“Probably not,” drawled Owen.

Changing the subject, Hannah asked him what had happened in the woods and fields.

“Nothin’ much. That ol’ boy, Mitch, he wasn’t gonna make it, I just slowed them down some so he could.”

“That simply, huh?”

“I reckon.”

“Reckon, that’s like peaked?”

“You’re a ornery little cuss.”

“It’s part of my charm,” she said.

“Yes it is,” agreed Owen. A car started. Then another. Owen pushed off the wall and motioned to the undead, who suddenly stopped moving. One of the ghouls swung its head toward the noise. “We better go.”

Hannah followed the man toward the drive where the cars were belching exhaust into the wet air. Jesse was directing people to vehicles and saw them coming.

“We’ve got an issue,” said Jesse.

“There’s a lot of them about to stagger this way,” retorted Hannah.

“Yeah, well this has to do with the four people who didn’t want to join us.”

Confused, Hannah had to think hard to decide who he meant. She then realized that he was talking about Berry and the other three locked in the room. “Shit. What’s the problem?”

“Some of the others are sayin’ we can’t leave them with nothin’.”

“They’re locked inside, away from the undead,” pointed out Hannah.

Jesse gave a chuckle. “Apparently that’s not good enough.”

“So?”

“so they want us to leave them with a couple guns.”

Owen snorted.

“Why don’t we leave them with a shotgun and a pistol. Put them outside the door and then they can break down the door if they want them.” Hannah pointed to the house to indicate the people inside. “I wouldn’t trust them otherwise.”

“Agreed,” said Jesse. He called to Dan and told him the decision.

“Folks aren’t going to take it too well.”

“This isn’t a debating point,” sighed Hannah, suddenly tired of the whole issue. “We can just leave.”

“Fine.” Dan called for a shotgun and a pistol and ammo. They were brought and Jesse grabbed them. He motioned for Hannah and Owen to follow. They made their way to the locked room and knocked on it, to hear Berry call out in anger.

“We’re leaving,” said Jesse to the door. “There’s a couple guns out here for you. When you get the door busted down, you can have them.”

“I’ll find you fucker,” warned Berry.

“I’ve heard that before,” said Jesse, placing the shotgun and pistol across the hall from the door. They left as the occupants began to hammer at the barrier to escape.

Once outside, Jesse grabbed Hannah and pointed to the Expedition. “Take the front.”

She frowned and saw that the Toyota was sitting vacant. “I’ll drive that.”

“There’s no fuckin’ windows in it, Hannah.”

“Humor me,” said Hannah.

“Hell, you’re as bad as fuckin’ Chelsea, I can’t tell you no.” He looked at Owen. “Go with her.”

“Sure.” Owen and Hannah headed for the battered vehicle. Hannah climbed into the drivers seat and fired the yellow monster up. She pulled the TLC around the other vehicles and down the drive, away from the spot where so much misery had been born. As she drove, Hannah had to wonder just what the future held in store.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:42 pm

Epilogue


Hannah leaned on the railing that was around the lowered fire pit area. There weren’t really logs in the fireplace, not real logs, just the ceramic ones that cast heat out into the large common area of the Lodge. The night sky was full of stars, reminding her of the days of the past, when things like the fire were enjoyed on a more leisurely basis. The lights had been turned down to soft glows around the play area and the common area, giving the area a comfortable feel. While they had down time now, in the security of the lodge, there were still things to be concerned about, now that the undead were less frequent of a sighting with the coming of the cold. They were still out there, still lurking in the cities and the villages, but people were out there as well, desperate people who had not planned as well as those with Hannah.

She turned her back to the warmth, looking over the area at the pool tables, smiling as Ted beat yet another grown man at the game. Stacy, still pale from her wounds, was sitting in one of the recliners, reading a book and drinking hot tea. Her rifle was propped next to the chair, like everyone, she kept it close by. Chelsea came running past Hannah, chasing another child and yelling at them. A woman called for them to stop running, if they were going to do that then take it to the patio, the former pool area surrounded by the building itself, and raised above the level of the ground, fortified with fencing and watched over by several guards on the roof tops of the Lodge.

When they had arrived two months ago, it had been empty, the doors unlocked, the place left with food in the pantry of the restaurant and booze on the shelves of the bar, as if the employees might return at any moment. The massive refrigerator was full of spoiled goods, and required a gut wrenching cleaning, but that had come later. All of them had cautiously prowled the halls, each of them half expecting Zombies around every turn, so creepily silent had the place been. Red had found the master keys, and then the room keys, and as they began to realize that there was absolutely nothing in the building alive but them, they started claiming rooms as their own. There were 96 rooms to choose from, and the people spread out, wanting the privacy that had been denied for so long. Jesse had let them, giving them space after the harsh way they had been forced to gather together. Stacy and the injured were taken to rooms, with volunteers staying with them.

Hannah found a room and collapsed, sleeping the night away alone.

The next day, Jesse had played the role of organizer, taking on the hard task of marshalling over forty personalities to the task of making sure they were safe. He had the bus backed down the loading ramp to the dock area, and the food they had was added to the stocks already in the store rooms. While it had looked like a lot at the time, they had barely enough for two weeks. All of the weapons and ammo was gathered and put in the office area under lock and key until a set of rules could be devised for distribution; there was only a finite amount of that as well. The crossbows would come in handy.

For day sthey sorted, unpacked, rearranged and explored.

The fuel tanks under the parking lot were found, the pumps for the fuel and the big diesel generator was started. They had 2500 gallons of fuel. They had tanks of propane, how much Hannah could never decipher, but enough to keep the fireplace running at certain hours and the cook stoves going under supervision. Another, 250 gallon gasoline tank was found near the sheds for the yard tractors. It was converted over to use by the patrol vehicles. The cows were put in those sheds, and fencing was looted from surrounding farms then strung to keep them form wandering too far. The chickens added to the mix, providing eggs for cooking. Game was hunted with the crossbows to supplement the larder, and the fields nearby, full of corn and soybeans were harvested as best as they could without attracting too much attention.

Hannah was learning how to make soy milk and tofu.

Cornmeal had to be ground.

The empty houses around them were explored and the goods inside claimed for the new community.

So much had happened that Hannah had almost forgotten what life had been like before all the dead had risen.

There was no sign of a government coming to help.

Every morning, Jesse made everyone say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Twenty new members had been added, people who had wandered the road in, others who had been camped out in houses and trying to exist.

They had elected a mayor and council. Hannah had been nominated and won a council seat, much to her dismay. Dan was the Mayor, and Jesse the Council President. Red was sheriff. He had five deputies, and under them were the Grounds Keepers, nice titles for the people who rotated in and out of the task of standing guard over the building. They even had court. Thankfully after the first two sentences, one for domestic violence, the other for a theft of a firearm, they no longer needed court. Hannah had been sickened by the lashings, and was determined to never watch another, no matter how hard Jesse stressed it was important that everyone understood that unlawfulness would not be tolerated. Funny words from an ex-con.

Hannah smiled at Jesse as he came up to her carrying two short glasses of bourbon. He handed one to her and she sipped it. In the background, Jeffery and a teen girl, new to the community by a couple of weeks, were playing the guitars that they had brought from the farm. The melody drifted peacefully over the other sounds.

“I shouldn’t be drinking since I’m pregnant,” she said, rubbing her gently rounding belly.

“I won’t tell that you’ve been drinkin’,” he assured her, tapping the glasses rims together. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Same to you.”

“How’s the food coming?”

“Well, seven turkeys and four deer take a little cookin’, but I think that it’s nearly finished.” They still ate as a community in the dining hall; it saved on gas to fire the ovens and stoves, and made it easier to regulate the amount of food that was used. They served two hot meals at day, breakfast and supper, with lunch being left over breakfast and food from the night before. Luckily, they had found a farm with a large garden and several other mid-sized gardens to supplement their own food. A couple of very hairy raids to outlaying towns had netted enough dry goods to keep them supplied until spring of the next year, if they were careful. Mayor Dan was being very careful. He had put together menus for weeks in advance with the help of Doc Corry and Donna. The Thanksgiving bash was the first departure from the ‘protein, carb, and a veggie’ diet they all joked and complained about.

“Good, I’m starved for something other than soy milk and tofu.”

“It’s not that bad,” admonished Jesse.

“At least we’ll make it through the winter, if it’s not overly long.”

“Yes, we will,” agreed Jesse. He took Hannah’s hand and lead her to the big window that over looked the woods and the lake beyond, all bathed in the distant star light of the near winter evening. “It’s a long way from your apartment and trying to use up the perishables, isn’t it?”

Hannah took one of the leather chairs, leaning her rifle against the wall nearby, settling in as Jesse eased into another. She sipped again, feeling the warmth spread through her body.

“Very long way. I look back now and I seemed so young.”

“You still are.”

“My chronological age has very little to do with how I feel,” she said.

“I fear we’re gonna to be feelin’ that for a while yet.” Jesse nodded out at the darkness. “They heard from Owen yet?”

Hannah shook her head. “He and Mitch are out of range they tell me. I really wish he hadn’t gone up to Mansfield to ‘look around’, as he put it. I worry about him. At least Hank was driving.”

They had set up a radio found in the Rangers offices in the lodge office that was monitored 24 hours a day. They used it to keep in touch with patrols and with the forage parties. Owen’s last broadcast had been two days ago from the outskirts of Bellville. She was worried and scared.

“Baby’s freak people out,” tried Jesse.

She sadly smiled at him. “It’s not like it’s his.”

“Maybe that’s the problem, Hannah,” said Jesse.

She sighed. “I know. But I can’t help what went before. Besides, he’s never really made his intentions clear.”

“No, but--,” he was interrupted by the appearance of Isaac, carrying two beer bottles. He saw the drink in Jesse’s hand and frowned.

“I guess I’m too late,” said Isaac.

“I got two hands,” joked Jesse. Isaac held the bottle out of Jesse’s grasping hand. “Naw, that just means I don’t have to get up as soon.” He spotted the glass in Hannah’s hand. “Hey, you can’t have that.”

“I’m not,” said Hannah, sipping it.

“Don’t let Stacy see you--.”

“Don’t let Stacy see what?” came Stacy’s comment from behind them. Isaac set down the two bottles and rushed over to help her, even though she could walk just fine on her own, if a little slow still.

“Nothing,” said Hannah, casting a reproachful glance at Jesse for getting her into the mess and trying to drop the glass below the level of the arm before Stacy saw it.

“I saw Jesse hand it to you,” said Stacy. “Forget trying to hide it.”

Hannah did, sipping it again.

“That doesn’t mean guzzle it,” sourly countered Stacy at the sip Hannah took.

“It was a sip,” protested Hannah.

Stacy eased into a chair that Isaac had brought for her. She picked up one of the beers, giving Isaac a look that challenged him to say something. He intelligently refused and took a drink of his own bottle. Stacy looked at the bottle and frowned. “I never thought I’d think that Shafer’s would be a welcome taste in beer.”

They laughed.

Hannah looked out over the lake once again, glad to be in the company of old friends, as old as they could be under the circumstances, and for a moment, wondered if her father were still alive. She knew that he would have been happy at being a grandfather, disappointed that she was not married, and eager to help her no matter what. Silently toasting the memory of her dad, Hannah took a small sip, determined to make the drink last as long as she could.

“You okay?” asked Jesse.

“I wish for a lot of things,” she told him. “I wish that Owen and Hank were here. I wish Freddy hadn’t been killed. I wish I knew what happened to my dad. I wish so much.”

“We all do, but we’re here. And you know I love ya kid,” he told her.

“Yeah, I know,” smiled Hannah. “I love you too.”

A bell rang from the dining room. Jesse stood and helped Hannah up while Isaac did the same for Stacy. They all picked up their rifles.

“Dinner.” He held out his arm for her to take. Hannah put her arm through his and they began to walk to the dining room with the others whose responsibility for the day had ended. Chelsea ran up and put an arm around Hannah.

“Can I sit with Tom?”

“That you’re new boyfriend?” joked Jesse.

“No,” said Chelsea to him. She then looked at Hannah. “Can I?”

“It’s Thanksgiving, babe,” said Hannah. Chelsea had adopted the practice of asking Hannah and Jesse for permission to do things, since they were the closest thing to family she had left.

“I know but--,” she looked at Jesse and frowned. “He’s cute.”

Jesse laughed. Hannah ruffled her hair, a motion of affection which she was starting to hate because it messed her hair up. “Go, but I want you to be polite and all that stuff.”

“I will,” she promised, running off.

Jesse cleared his throat. “You give her that talk yet?”

“She just turned eleven,” said Hannah.

“Tom’s fourteen,” pointed out Jesse in a fatherly voice.

Hannah laughed at him. “Yes, dad, I gave her ‘that’ talk. She thought it was gross.”

“Good.”

“What about you and Anne?”

“She’s working,” said Jesse stiffly.

“And?”

“And, I don’t know.”

“Okay,” relented Hannah, leaning her head on Jesse’s shoulder. “You’re about the best friend I got, you know?”

“You used to hate me.”

“I was young, naive.”

“Funny, I think the same about you,” he said.

“That I’m young and naïve?”

He chuckled. “No, that you’re about the best friend I’ve got.”

“About?”

“You are.” Jesse shortened his steps for the walk down the stairs. “Too bad, because you’d’ve been a great lay.”

“Damn skippy, buddy. You missed out.”

“I know,” sighed Jesse. After kissing her on the head, he held the door open to the dining area and they found their seats. Outside the windows, a light snow was starting to fall. Mayor Dan stood and Hannah barely heard his words, instead she looked out over the lake and once more wondered where Owen was spending his night and if he were going to return.

Jesse reached out and grabbed her hand as they prayed for the meal. Hannah found comfort in the warmth, letting herself be thankful for what she did have. She joined in the Amen and smiled at the room, just happy to be alive.
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Post by doc66 » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:43 pm

That's it.

Now check out Owen, the continuation of a story.

Doc
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Post by Tetra Grammaton Cleric » Mon Nov 26, 2007 9:18 pm

doc66 wrote:That's it.

Now check out Owen, the continuation of a story.

Doc
Thanks Doc. You fucking ROCK.

You. must. get. these. published.

And/or then turned into a quality television series.

And some movies.

Anybody got Josh Wheadon's private number? Or the Jericho guy?
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