The Woman and the Ghost

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Wrecking Ball » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:09 pm

AHH....Now THAT might just be my favorite post....MOAR pl0x?
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:40 pm

Towards the end of their training, prospective Navy SEALs had what was called ‘hell week,’ which weeded out those who just didn’t have it in them at the end to wear the ‘Special Warfare’ pin on their uniforms and dashed the hopes of those who believed that they had all but made it. ‘Hell week’ was what Krista and the rest of Romeo One called the second and final week of their training under Ghost. They had slept an average of one and a half hours a night, and they trained like automatons, performing tasks flawlessly even if they were so exhausted that they barely remembered doing it afterwards. But like military training, those going through it tend to hate every second of it but feel better for the experience when it is over. They realized that they were far stronger than they ever thought possible, and believed that they could take on the world by themselves once someone told them that they had made it. Krista had never served in the military, but she now understood the feeling. She had spent quite a bit of time believing that every day, that every hour was her last before being busted out and sent to refresher training, which she had already experienced when she returned to Recon. But she had made it. They all had, and they had Darius to thank for keeping them together and focused on the task at hand.

But there was no ceremony, no handshakes, no bands or salutes from the higher ups. Instead, on the morning after the final day, after getting more sleep than they had the entire week before, Ghost assembled them and told them that they had all passed, and they would now turn in their gear and go home. They were off for three days.

That was all.

They all stood in the motor pool, dressed in their civilian clothing with off-duty weapons on their belts, trying to contemplate what had happened to them. To Darius, it was not entirely new, as he had served in the Air Force for four years, being honorably discharged only a few months before the end of the world had reared up to devour everything they cared about. But still, they all tried to focus on where they were now, and what they had become. They had become a far more tight-knight gang than they had been, as all had pitched in to get everyone through it all, as much to spite Ghost, who they said would have loved nothing more than to send the weak links packing, Krista most of all. But they all felt strong, tough, and ready to handle whatever lay ahead. Now, they felt as though they were every bit as tough as ALERT, even though Ghost had bluntly informed them that ALERT’s training was tougher and lasted much longer.

Darius finally got them past their speculations over the purpose of their new training and their new confidence over completing it.

“Okay, I don’t know about any of you, but I’m going home and eating something other than dehydrated camp food. Beyond that, I think we need a party like a motherfucker. My place, tonight at nine. Bring your booze rations. I fully expect that there won’t be a drop left by the time we all pass out.”

Everyone was elated. Krista asked, “So, just the five of us? What about the other teams? We haven’t had contact with anyone but Ghost for the last two damned weeks. Are they all going through the same thing? Are they coming tonight?”

Darius replied, “Beats the shit out of me. I’ll see what anyone knows. Maybe I’ll fart around the briefing hall or the lockers for a while before going home. See if I can find anything out.”

Krista caught a ride home on Birchum’s shuttle, and she couldn’t do much to answer his questions about why she had been gone for two weeks. But she got home and obliterated a big lunch, took some grub out of the freezer and put it in the fridge (she had wisely put as much in the way of perishables as she could in the freezer before leaving for training, lest a rather unpleasant smell be waiting for her upon her return), and crashed out on the couch. The TV station was playing a few episodes of Dawson’s Creek, which she promptly turned off, as she had hated that show when it had been on the air for real.

She woke up in time and took a hike over to Darius’s place, as she couldn’t find a shuttle from her street to his. The party was just getting going, and she was the last of Romeo One to arrive. A few others were there as well, but within twenty minutes or so, it seemed as though all of Recon was in attendance, because they were.

“Jesus, Darius, what the hell? The whole world’s here. What’s that all about?” Krista asked.

“Oh yeah, I heard before leaving today. Every team on Recon got the same training as we did. All of Recon was off rotation for the last two weeks. All the team leaders on ALERT served as instructors. Can you believe that? How did we not see anyone that whole time? Well, I was told that everyone was being trained in another part of the colony at any given time, so whoever took care of the logistics on that one must have been a genius.”

Krista shook her head, barely able to contemplate just how all of Recon was trained at the same time but no one ever knew about it. “And out of everyone, we got Ghost. Just our luck, huh?”

“From what Shelly on Five tells me, it wouldn’t have mattered. Every instructor rode them hard and put them away wet. But we made it. We got through it. One is still together. The Air Force never put me through the hell that we’ve had in the last two weeks. But before you ask, no. I have no idea what it’s all for. It’s big, whatever it is, and it looks like the whole gang is going to be part of it. But no one upstairs is saying a word about it.”

After a few more beers, Krista learned that three didn’t make it. One guy from Three and two from Four were heading back to train with the new guys hoping to join Special Teams. If twenty-two complete training and three don’t, it must really suck to be among the three. Krista was instantly glad she didn’t give up, equally glad to have a team leader like Darius Hurst, and especially glad that Ghost didn’t single her out.

“So Darius, any idea what’s happening to those three poor bastards? Whatever’s happening, are their teams going to have to wait until they complete refresher training and then have to go through those two weeks all over again?”

“Beats me, Krista. I’m sure Captain Heyward or someone else is thinking of something. For all I know, when all this goes down, whatever the hell it is, they might just go ahead and send who they have and leave those three swinging for the time being. But let’s not talk too much shop right now. Drink up, be merry, and don’t puke in the kitchen sink. Just enjoy yourself.”

Krista certainly did drink, she was certainly merry, and most certainly enjoyed herself. She still caught a few glares from some of the partygoers, those who had been tight with Arlen Bradford, and even in her drunken haze, she had the presence of mind to wonder if she would live long enough to get past that. If she did, the future would probably be wide open and she would have a lot of options as to where she went from here. If not, she would tough it out and try to remember that it was just a case of other people butting in to her business.

She had beaten herself up enough over the last nineteen months. To her, the world had run out of anyone else who could claim the right.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:33 pm

Being off rotation for three days did a lot to clear Krista’s head, and not just of the murderous hangover she endured the morning after the party (she woke up under the coffee table this time). The last two weeks worth of obstacle courses, crunches, running, lectures, and combat training had now imbedded itself in her brain and made her something different than she had been going into it. Recon, and now Ghost, had left their mark on her, and things were going to be different for her now. Two straight weeks of hell under a masked taskmaster had a habit of doing that.

She knew she was different. If that scumbag from the Union Bar came back to start a fight again, he would find more trouble than he could handle, and Krista could have already taken him down handedly that night she stayed her hand and let Ghost do the dirty work. She was slowly forgiving herself for the sad fate of Arlen Bradford, and she had decided that no one would give her crap about it without a response. She had been gearing herself up for getting back into the dating world, and now she was fully prepared for whatever successes or failures lay ahead. After all, she was twenty-eight, brunette, brown-eyed, and attractive, and out there somewhere in the colony was someone who wouldn’t let the ghost of Arlen Bradford stand in the way.

And speaking of ghosts, she had taken what he could throw at her and came out the other side. She was losing her fear of him. That skull mask no longer intimidated her so much even though others couldn’t claim the same.

Krista was a brand new person, and the colony was going to learn to deal with it. No matter what they had done to her or still planned on doing, they weren’t getting rid of her that easily.

And this brand new Krista had occasion to meet another brand new person. In the motor pool, she ran into Raymond Fuller, wearing the gray, with the pins of Romeo Four on his collar.

“Holy shit, Ray. You made it. Good job. Welcome to Dixie.”

“Hey, Krista. Yeah, I did it. They gave me one of the open slots on Four. A couple of them wound up back in refresher training, so I just got permanently assigned. They’ll be in Support and Logistics for a while until more slots opened up. Damn, I would hate to be those guys. They didn’t pass that freaky training and now their places are taken. I’m told that me and two other guys, the ones I trained with, are going through that stuff next. That stuff the ALERT guys trained you in. It looks like everyone on Recon has to pass it or they’re out of the field. Strange, huh?”

“Yeah, strange as hell. But again, glad you made it, and don’t let those ALERT guys get you down. Just tough it out and you’ll be okay.”

“I’ve got to go. I have a policy seminar with the rest of the team in a few. I have to report at the end of the week for training with whatever ALERT guy they send. I won’t be seeing you for a while.”

“Don’t worry, Ray. When your training is done, maybe we can do something? I don’t know, something lame and tame to celebrate surviving it?” Krista was putting the ball in Ray’s court, wondering if he would hit it back. She was tired of wondering if Brad would always haunt her steps as she tried to get back in the dating game, and was now trying to put that aside and actually start enjoying what a woman her age was supposed to.

And he did not disappoint. “Sure, Krista. That sounds cool. I’ll get a hold of you after I get back.”

“Cool, Ray. It’s a date.” She used the word ‘date’ quite intentionally. She wouldn’t have minded at all if she was on Ray’s mind when he wasn’t getting screamed at by one of the three-stripers from ALERT.

But after returning to duty, life went on as it had before. They continued training, though at their previous levels of intensity. The classes and seminars, the rifle ranges and battlefield medicine, hand-to-hand combat and field equipment maintenance, all continued. She knew, or thought she knew, that the bosses were planning something and that the whole gang was going along for the ride, but after a couple of weeks, people mostly stopped talking about it. Everyone got tired of rumors that didn’t mean anything and all the speculation that got more and more fantastic by the day. A Friday or two later, Krista needed to unwind from all the uncertainty and headed to the Union with Boba and Rosa. Darius had already packed it in and Allen was off with some girl doing something unmentionable.

As the rounds went by, they talked incessantly about anything that didn’t involve whatever had been the reason for their training.

“So Krista, hearing from the ranks on up that you have eyes for that guy on Four, the one in training under that sergeant from ALERT Two. Ray…Fallon?” Boba asked.

“Fuller. And why not? Cute guy, kind of innocent, lots of promise, and doesn’t throw the past in my face. Nice as hell, too. I have to get back on the market. Coming home to someone wouldn’t hurt, you know.” Krista sat back after taking a swig of Zia and smiled. Yes, things were on the upswing.

Rosa got involved. “So…what will you do if you can hook him? Have a bunch of kids and become a stay-at-home mom? I heard that you really wanted to be a mother, and that’s why you and…”

Boba jumped in fast. “Rosa, not now. The past is a bitch and we should let it die. Besides, that was between two people. One is Krista, and the other isn’t you. Don’t dredge that one up.”

“Sorry guys. But people talk, you know? And everyone used to talk about you, Krista, but not so much anymore. People only really seem to talk about you the way they talk about everyone else. Nothing big, just whatever’s significant at the moment.” Rosa tried to steer the conversation away from Arlen Bradford, whom she had met all of once anyway.

“Actually, I’m not thinking about kids. I’m not thinking about that at all. I just want to come home to someone, someone good that is, and be happy. I wanted kids, that’s true, and look where it got me. I’m just going day by day. I think Ray might be a good catch. I think he likes me.”

“Maybe he does.” Boba replied.

None of the three of them noticed a man staring at them from across the bar. He was perfectly sober, the glasses in front of him had held nothing but juice the whole night. He glared and ground his teeth, never taking his eyes off of Krista. He finally got up and headed over. Rosa noticed him right away.

“Someone’s coming, guys. He doesn’t look happy. I don’t know who in the hell he is.”

“I do.” Krista said.

The man stopped at their table and gently put his palms down on it. “Well lookie who it is. The bitch who sent me away for a month. I still can’t even have a drink for another few weeks ‘cause of you, woman. Hope you’re happy. You could have just stood up and fought me and we could have left it all behind, but no. You had to let that masked marvel do everything for you. And this time you brought your merry men…”

Krista was not taking the bait. “Sir, go home. I came here to enjoy a night off with my friends. I would suggest you get lost.”

“A month…a month I was in that shithole. I got sent over to the recycling plant because of that. I had a good gig at the TV station, and now look at me. Stand up. The Lone Ranger isn’t here to back you up this time.”

“But we are.” Boba and Rosa seemed to say in unison. Krista remained stoic. Apparently it hadn’t been the booze last time. This guy was a prick while sober, too.

“Come on, bitch. Leave the other two Musketeers out of this. You and me.”

Krista said, in a perfect monotone, “Sir, you have just threatened a police constable. This being your second offense, that could mean three months this time. Leave now, and I might forget about this. Otherwise…”

The man slowly pulled the table aside and everyone in earshot began to move away. He put his hands on his hips and said, “Now then, let’s finish this shit. I’m going to…”

Whatever he was going to do, he never got to finish saying it out loud. Fast as a pouncing predator, Krista leapt up and decked the man across the face, then swept his legs out from under him and rolled him over, cuffing him immediately. “Bartender, flag down the next patrol. You sir, are under arrest for threatening a police constable.”

Though he wasn’t anywhere nearby, Krista could almost feel the cold eyes of Sergeant Ghost on her as she cuffed him. What caught her totally by surprise, though, was how much like him she sounded at the moment.

Indeed, two weeks with Ghost had left their mark on her.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Wrecking Ball » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:30 am

Oh jeez.....the suspense is killing me. And what's with the prick at the bar??? He's such an annoying, weak asshole!!! Great story. MOAR ploxxxxx.
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Stumpgrinder » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:50 am

I'm loving it! Keep um coming man!
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by FrANkNstEin » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:18 pm

:D :D :D

really like the story! awesome pace btw :!:

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by ozwyn » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:52 pm

I have an almost strange feel Ghost someone put the guy up to it, like he's testing her.
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by ZMace » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:05 pm

I have an almost strange feel that Ghost and Krista will end up hooking up!


:lol:


no... not really
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by wyecoyte » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:09 pm

ZMace wrote:I have an almost strange feel that Ghost and Krista will end up hooking up!


:lol:


no... not really

NNOOOOO!!!! She is going to hook up with Fuller. Not ghost. Oh sorry your were just kidding.

Now is it to early to ask for moar please?...

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Caenus » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:09 am

Just read through the whole story up to this point. Once I started, didn't want to stop. Great!
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Wrecking Ball » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:16 am

C'mon Ponyboy, we know you have it in you to produce MOAR at the demand of the MOAR zombies!!!!!
Finch wrote:i sometimes hope zombies come so i dont have to go to work
Finch wrote:i don't keep sharp things near me when my wiener is out of my pants
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:18 am

Krista had heard that Raymond Fuller and the other new permanent additions to Recon were now out of their brutal training with the ALERT people, and she hoped that the first thing he would do is get in touch with her. She knew exactly where to find him, but she had made a move and now she wanted him to make the next one. She wanted to put herself out there of course, but she didn’t want to do everything herself.

Of course, it was just after everyone on Recon was fully trained and cleared for rotation that they all got the news. They all already knew that something big was up, but Recon and ALERT were all called together for something important in the briefing hall. It was the first time both were fully in attendance for anything. Whatever the brass was planning, this was probably it.

The morning had come, and had come early. Everyone was ordered to report at 0600, and the hall was buzzing with some idle chatter, but mostly with speculation. It was the colony’s version of the old police saying “calling all cars,” and the excitement was so thick in the air that a person could almost reach out and feel it in their hands. The room was full of gray and khaki, and what caught at least some off guard, especially Krista, was three of the rarely-seen personalities at the front of the hall, standing near Captain Carl Heyward.

One of them was Lieutenant Derek Forbes, commanding officer of Recon. When Recon had been set up, he was among the first given command of a team, and as the basic structure of the Constabulary continued to come together, he was quickly promoted and made the administrative head of Recon. He was the one who worked out the training schedules and rotations, but his work was mostly done from an office, making him rather invisible to the very teams he himself helped create. When important matters required attention, they tended to be tossed up directly to Captain Heyward to be dealt with directly. Forbes maintained a small staff and let them do most of what needed to be done, under the belief that such was their purpose.

Behind him was Sergeant Ben Dorsey, the only sergeant in Recon and the heir apparent to Forbes’s job. He was the head of Support and Logistics and answered directly to Lieutenant Forbes, and while his boss actually commanded, he was the one who ran the show, and nothing in Recon could ever really get done without him. Many know the old saying that amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics, and there was nothing about logistics that Dorsey had not mastered. He was far more appreciated than his boss was and certainly more respected, as anyone was bound to be more appreciative to the one who made sure the ammunition (among other things) arrived on time than the one who simply told them where to go and logged their hours in the field.

But also there was Lieutenant Lee Takagi, the C.O. of ALERT and Forbes’s opposite number, and he was no office slug. He had been one of the founding members of ALERT and had commanded its first team when there had been but one, and he had been instrumental in setting up the training programs and the specific responsibilities of ALERT, and his operations outside the walls was the stuff of legends. He often remarked that Ghost was his finest student, and he himself had been Arlen Bradford’s instructor, who personally felt the lost of someone so promising and so popular. Takagi handled every aspect of his job himself or with the small staff that existed for just such a purpose, but he kept himself informed of whatever was important and there wasn’t one person in Special Teams who thought he ruled from an ivory tower, of which Lieutenant Forbes was often accused. He didn’t have a first-rate sergeant like Ben Dorsey (sergeants in ALERT were team leaders, not administrators) and didn’t need one. He busted his own ass as much as anyone else’s and he was a big part of what made ALERT such an effective force.

Although Forbes and Takagi were equals in rank and theoretically in responsibility under Heyward, there wasn’t one soul who believed that Forbes had a ghost of a chance over Takagi when Heyward’s captaincy opened up.

With these three in the room, what was afoot was clearly even bigger than anyone could have guessed.

Krista walked around, trying to shake off the cobwebs from a night of only some sleep and ran into Raymond Fuller. “Hey Ray. If this thing gets kicked off right away, we may have to postpone that date. But I hope you take rain checks.”

“Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t miss it. So, what do you like to do?”

“I think you should come over, we go out somewhere, and we’ll just go from there.”

Ray smiled that innocent smile of his. “Sounds like a plan, or at least part of one.”

Their conversation would have gone farther if Captain Heyward hadn’t told everyone to sit down. His briefing began.

“I know about all the rumors and speculation about why Recon has been undergoing special training and what we have in mind for the next operation. I’m here to answer your questions. As you all know, Romeo One recently scouted the town of Lordsburg and found an intact town with no presence of the living dead and no sign of survivors. Although we still have no answers as to how this is possible, the council has decided to make use of the town. They have decided that Lordsburg is the perfect place to establish Duke City’s first outpost.”

That led to mumbling here and there as the crowd contemplated what this meant. There was always talk of establishing one, but it had yet to be attempted. No one knew what the actual process would be, but if Recon’s time in training had been any indication, the process was probably not easy.

“Romeo One’s scouting of Lordsburg was designed to hopefully help us establish a route to a new colony that both we and the Winslow Colony could maintain jointly, but since the town of Lordsburg is intact and without any of the dead, the establishment of an outpost would expedite this process. From there, we can maintain a permanent presence in the area and use it as a base of operations to clear out any nearby towns and possibly sweep the countryside, and the founding of the new colony could be seriously moved forward. The distance would be seriously reduced and the Lordsburg outpost could serve as a weight station between the new colony and this one. From there, we could also begin scouting even more towns and possibly acquire new equipment and clear even more roads. We have never seen a town that lends itself to local operations so perfectly, but this process will not be an easy one. We have to be able to send work crews out there to begin the process of fortification, to establish living quarters for a new, permanent human presence, put the local power plant back online, and so on. If this is to happen, they would have to be protected. That is where you all come in, and that is why Recon has now been trained closer to the standards of ALERT. We would go out there every few days and build more and more until the place is safe for our crews. Once the walls are up, we can keep a work crew there full time and limit our convoys to simply supply and equipment runs. After the first series of fortifications is complete, we will also establish there a volunteer force of both veteran and new recruits from Special Teams. Anyone who wishes to volunteer may do so at a time to be specified later. For now, we are going to recon that town again, and again after that, and then send teams out into the surrounding areas to determine the location and size of the nearest clusters of the living dead. Once we can determine the actual risks to the crews and the teams being sent with them, we can begin establishing our new outpost. Tomorrow morning, Romeo Three is being sent into Lordsburg and Romeo Four will scout the town again two days later. Once we are certain that the town is clear, we will send our ALERT teams into the surrounding countryside. This will not be a quick process. The council predicts that it might take up to a year to get the Lordsburg outpost up and running. But Recon and ALERT are up to the task. You all have my full confidence.”

Krista, like everyone else seated in the room, sat in silence. Here it was at last. The answer to all the riddles.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:34 am

Later that same day, Krista got the word that the man who attempted to assault her in the Union Bar for the second time, this time getting a black eye for his troubles, was sentenced to four months confinement and equal time on the forced work crews. However, in light of the grand operation that now loomed before her and the rest of Special Teams, the news was reduced to insignificance. Now the big secret was out and the whole gang was going to be involved. Somehow, she couldn’t shake the feeling that it would wind up being a milk run, that while the construction of the new compound in Lordsburg went on, nothing would show up and their training, while valuable and certainly confidence-building, might not have to serve its true purpose. Still, the thought did pop up here and there that the inevitable noise of vehicles, equipment, and shouting workers might draw them in from miles around, though the fact that ALERT was soon heading out to take down whatever they found and leave piles of charred corpses with bullet holes in their heads might make that a non-issue.

The next morning, after virtually no one on Special Teams got much in the way of sleep, the motor pool looked like the ports in England must have on June 5th, 1944, as the whole world prepared to bang down Hitler’s front door bright and early the next day. Everyone was running around, gathering this and pouring over that. Mechanics were dirtying their hands on one thing or another, maps were studied, supplies counted, and prayers said aloud. There was a great deal of apprehension as a project of monumental proportions was beginning, mixed with excitement as Special Teams was at the core of a new age, an age in which some would come out from behind the walls and build new ones, slowly spreading across what had once been their country, in an effort to take life into their own hands and take the fight directly to the living dead. They were literally about to build the future, and everyone, even those racked by tension, were pumped over the prospect of being among the few who would later be able to claim that as humanity walked into its new age, they were the ones who held its hand.

Captain Heyward was privately briefing Romeo Three with maps and charts and so on (Lieutenant Forbes, again, was stuck in his office, no doubt unhappy that the world was more or less moving on without him) and everyone noticed that someone, no one knew who yet, had painted a design on the side of their bus like an old World War II bomber. Like ALERT, it featured an American flag waving in the wind with the dramatic caption of “The Sleeping Giant will Awaken.” It was just more visual evidence that everyone involved grasped the gravity of the situation, and that somehow, when America came back into existence after taking down the last of the living dead, this day would be seen as one of the starting points. In a way, the Duke City town council were almost the new Founding Fathers while the Constabulary, at least Special Teams, were more like the Continental Army of old. It was all beginning here.

What would they think when the new outpost was established? What would they think when others followed? How about in decades to come when the country, now dotted with colonies like Duke City, was dotted with hundreds of new colonies and outposts that formed an interlocking web of humanity that could finally hold hands and crush the last of the dead? Krista had her own idea. She thought, as she saw Romeo Three board their bus, that as an old woman, possibly sitting on her couch with a graying, doddering relic like Raymond Fuller beside her, could tell the young that she was there. She was among those who ventured out of the wall to give humanity its world back. She and Ray were of the happy few, the new band of brothers, who refused to lay down and die and with their sweat and blood, gave humanity back its soul.

She shook at the thought. It was the perfect validation of her own survival.

Somehow, she thought that out there somewhere, Arlen Bradford was smiling on her, wishing he could be with her. She hoped that wherever he was, he had forgiven her. Krista wished that he could experience this moment with her.

Romeo Three rumbled out of the gate and off to the future. There were waves and cheers and ‘good lucks’ as they vanished off into the west.

Minutes later, everyone was gearing up for their own parts in this tale. They checked their vehicles and checked them again, going over every gauge and round of ammo. They cleaned their weapons adjusted their load-bearing vests down to the millimeter. No one could talk about anything but what the next year or so might be like. Silently, they pondered whether or not they would volunteer to be among those who manned the Lordsburg outpost, whether or not they would leave their home to build new ones, or stay home and continue their efforts from the homes they now had.

During lunch, Krista sat on a bench near the motor pool, eating a simple fare of a sandwich, a bag of banana chips, and a plastic bottle of juice, while Ray found her and took the seat next to her.

“I guess that will be me everyone’s waving off in a couple of days, huh, Krista?”

“Yeah, I guess it will. Just keep your eyes open and you’ll be okay. I sort of envy you. I don’t know when One is going out there. Even Darius doesn’t know, but we will be out there soon, I expect. We’ll all be out there time and time again over the next few months. I never thought this would happen. When I first got here when everything had already fallen apart, I just thought we’d hide behind our walls, scratch out some kind of existence, and die in there while the whole world still belonged to them. I guess we’re made of tougher stuff than I thought.”

“But soon, we’re still going out, right? I mean, they’re not going to have us out there everyday. We’ll still have a couple of days off rotation so we can chill out, right?”

Krista smiled, knowing that Ray was hoping that their plans of possibly getting together hadn’t been erased by the rising tide of history. “I’m sure we will. This is going to take a year, Heyward says. We can’t be doing this everyday. We’ll be taking it slow, I’m sure. Don’t worry. You’ll be looking good with me on your arm soon enough.”

Just then, Ghost walked by. He stopped after passing them, turned, and folded his arms. He stared right at Krista to the point that Ray nervously excused himself.

“Krista, I’ll see you in a bit. I need to see if the team needs me for anything.” It was a half-assed excuse, but Ghost still intimidated Ray, but not Krista. Not anymore.

“Thanks a lot, Casper the Asshole. Ray and I were having a private chat and you had to come along and fuck it up.”

“You may find it useful to shut your mouth and deal with it, Constable. Whether or not I inconvenience you is a matter of total irrelevance.”

“Why did you even stop? What’s it to you? You have business with me at the moment?”

“Only a suggestion, Showalter.”

“Oh yeah? And that is?”

“When you find yourself spending quality time with Constable Fuller, I hope you remember what you did to Arlen Bradford. Fuller is a young man full of promise and no one needs you taking that away from us like you did with Bradford. One sad end to a bright future is all you should be willing to allot yourself. You have come some distance since you got busted off Recon, that I will admit, but I can only hope that as you have improved yourself as a constable, that you have also made some effort to improve yourself as a person. That is something in which you cannot be trained, and it is something in which you have consistently come up short. If you have not developed in terms of character, then do not drag Fuller down with you as you did with Bradford. Things are happening now, and I will not allow you to hinder us in the slightest way. If your true nature as a substandard human being has not yet been tamed, do not allow Fuller to pay for your deficiencies. Do not allow yourself to fall under the delusion that anyone would forgive you a second time. A great many people have yet to forgive you for Bradford. I am among those.”

“Ghost, I’m tired as hell of you throwing Brad in my face every chance you get. What the hell makes you think that it’s ever been any of your business? Huh? That was a year and a half ago and I’ve been punished enough for it.”

“Think what you will, Showalter, no matter how incorrect it is. You may be tired of being constantly reminded of the day you took a great friend from us, but I am also tired of living in a world that does not have Arlen Bradford in it. There is something truly sad about surviving a world ruled by the living dead to come to this place and die of a broken heart.” With that, Ghost was gone before she could even open her mouth to respond.

Ghost had once again, as his name would imply, brought the past back to haunt her. All the enthusiasm she had felt only minutes before was now replaced by regret over Brad and fear over whether or not she had the ability to treat a kind young man like Raymond Fuller the way he deserved to be treated.

She had not outrun her past quite yet.
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:19 am

Ghost’s comments hadn’t been easy to shake off, but Krista was able to put it out of her mind after a time when she busied herself with the rest of her team. Even though Ghost was no longer on the brain, Brad and Ray certainly were. She had made an effort to be a better person, and had in her mind accomplished that by being a better constable, if a lower-ranking one. She knew that given the chance, she would not treat Ray the same as she treated Brad and hoped that there would be some kind of penance in that, but Ghost was right about one thing. Nothing she did would completely erase the stain of her failure with Brad, and as long as Brad was still dead and there were still those who missed him, she would never completely be free of him.

But other things were now happening that would dominate her time for a while.

Everyone hung around the motor pool and the immediate area, wringing their hands and waiting for Three to come back, but a six-hour round trip would by itself take up most of the day, and to that was added however long Three chose to patrol Lordsburg. By mid-afternoon, everyone had filled their time as best they could but wound up loitering and lingering, doing nothing but waiting for Three to come back and report that the dead were still not to be found at the site of their soon-to-be outpost. No one had any important duties that had not been taken care of and time wore on the members of Special Teams. Darius fell asleep inside their bus (which had recently been painted with its own American imagery. This time, the flag came with the caption: America Endures.) and Boba had taken to tossing around a football with Rosa, and seemed to be looking at each other in a way that hinted that they were beginning to see each other as more than comrades-in-arms.

But at almost six in the evening, Three came back and were instantly mobbed by Dixies and Brown Coats, pressing them for news, and the news they got was the same as One had reported: a town looking perfectly intact with no living or dead to speak of. Although Four would have its own operation there in a couple of days, everyone seemed to be saying the same thing: the campaign to build a new outpost in Lordsburg would begin soon and the dead wouldn’t be able to stop them.

At least that evening, Krista didn’t have to deal with Ghost again, and she and Ray made plans for that night, as they had both grown tired of waiting and decided to accelerate their budding courtship, if that’s in fact what it was.

Raymond Fuller showed up at her door around half past seven and knocked on the door with freshly picked flowers as though the prom was already in full swing right down the road. He was in casual civilian clothing, as was she.

“Hey Krista, I know we didn’t really think too far ahead, but I’m told that they’re showing The Godfather in the auditorium at the high school, and I’ve never seen it. Have you?”

“Nope. Never had the chance, and I think it’s a good idea. Let’s go.” That was a bald-faced lie, as she had certainly seen The Godfather as it had been one of her father’s favorites, but she didn’t want to say anything that might make Ray think that he needed to come up with a new game plan. Although it was a walk, Ray was a perfect gentleman, holding her arm and even unconsciously walking closer to the curb like the days of old when gentlemen did exactly that to keep women from getting splashed by passing cars, even though the passing cars were long gone. The evening was balmy and the stars shone brilliantly overhead, making the whole night seem like the end of the world had never come at all. They watched their movie and spent the rest of the night talking about it, Krista making sure that she didn’t say anything to indicate that she already knew the movie almost by heart.

After Krista made a fairly basic dinner (lamb chops, as the sheep farm was having a good year), they sat on the couch and kept the evening going for as long as they could.

Without much in the way of warning, Ray said, “So Krista, I think I…I don’t think I can say it without sounding stupid.”

“Then I promise that I’ll make myself feel stupid when I hear it, then we can be stupid together.”

“Okay, I…damn. I think I like you.” Ray then looked nervously at her, having no idea what kind of response to expect.

“In what way? And don’t be too shy to say it. Whatever you’re thinking, I really want to hear it.”

Ray swallowed for a second and adjusted the neck of his shirt until he couldn’t stall any longer. “I like you as…I think you’re a cool woman, and I don’t want this to be the last time we go out, and I certainly want us to go to the next level as we get to know each other better.” Ray froze after that for a few seconds, until he realized what he had said and forced himself to look away. “Sorry, I can’t believe I just said that. I…I must look like a real moron right now.”

“As I promised, I now feel like a moron. Here we are, just a couple of morons. And…I like you too. I think we should do this again when we’re both off rotation. I really want to see where we can go from here.”

Ray breathed easier. “So…does this make us a couple or something?”

“Ask me that again sometime.”

Nothing of a carnal nature happened, but Ray did lean his head on Krista’s shoulder and they spoke until the night took its toll. Ray fell asleep despite his best efforts and Krista gently put a pillow under his head and an afghan on top of him. She smiled and went to fall asleep herself in her recliner after moving the alarm clock out to the end table in the living room. They slept through the night and the next morning, Krista and Ray experienced their first time eating breakfast together.

Krista didn’t know if breakfast the morning after their first date was a milestone, but she liked it.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by ZMace » Fri Feb 05, 2010 10:35 am

good additions, except... where did Krista get the banana?
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Cascade Failure » Fri Feb 05, 2010 10:43 am

Poor Ray...I think he's a dead man. But, not through any fault of Krista's. Just the making of a small tragedy. She redeems herself, he dies, blah blah blah.... No Ghost though.

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Wrecking Ball » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:48 pm

3 epic installments!!!! wonderful!!! MOAR pl0x.
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Kathy in FL » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:11 pm

I finally had time to catch up. Really good story Pony ... really very well written. Thank you for the time and effort involved.

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:31 pm

The day after Romeo Three had returned, Krista and Ray walked together to the motor pool, arm-in-arm, looking to all the world like a happy couple, which is what they were slowly learning to be. It was quite a walk, but neither even tried to hop one of the shuttles. It would have reduced the time they had together.

They spoke mostly of plans for the immediate future, and although Krista didn’t say it out loud or even imply it, in her mind, she knew that the next time one spent the night at the other’s house, it was going to be a hell of a night. She was liking Ray more and more by the day and she was going to do what was needed to hang on to him, and she was doing this one right. Ghost could go get fucked for all she cared.

The chatter about Three’s trip the day before had died down, as they could only say that they found nothing so many times before getting tired of repeating it. No patrols were scheduled for that day, and no one was going anywhere for a while unless it was to Lordsburg. But everyone was still gearing up for their part in this tale, going over all the same things as they already had. Not that anyone cared, since Special Teams wanted to do something to pass the time instead of waiting for their turn to start building the Lordsburg Outpost.

The next day, the motor pool was again buzzing bright and early. Romeo Four was heading out, and if their reports were the same as One’s and Three’s had been, then there would be nothing in the way of them getting back out there and starting the outpost. ALERT would run around the countryside taking down whatever dead they found, but the building would actually begin. As Four loaded up, ran through maps and read maintenance reports, Krista was able to get Ray alone just for a minute.

“Feeling the pressure, Ray?”

“Yeah. I don’t think we’re running into anything out there, I mean, you didn’t and neither did Three. But still I’m going to be far from home. I think I forgot what it was like out there and this whole thing is going to have me a little on edge.”

“Just try not to think about it too much. Just listen to the veterans, keep your head down and do what you’re told. But whatever happens, you come back to me, okay? We have a second date coming up and you’re not going to be late for it.”

“Of course not, Krista. I’ll come back to you. Think about what you want to do the next time we get together.”

Krista already had, and Ray would have fainted if he knew what she had in mind for him.

She waved good bye with Ray leaning out the window as Romeo Four rumbled out the gate and off to Lordsburg for their own turn scouting the town for what was supposedly the last time. After that, Captain Heyward had decided how to keep his people occupied and put them through a grueling obstacle course, followed by marksmanship classes (Recon and ALERT trained side-by-side on these), and the performance of Recon had significantly narrowed the gap between themselves and ALERT, even though ALERT still bested them in everything.

By 1300, Heyward put all of Special Teams through a mile run, and then had them assemble to clean their weapons. Afterwards, he himself taught a class in basic battlefield medicine, which was nothing that every member of Special Teams didn’t know from the inside out. But their minds focused on getting through another day of seemingly needless training, which was the intention, as thoughts of Lordsburg and Romeo Four faded for the time being.

But one female constable on One did allow her mind to drift outside the walls to a new guy on Four.

From about 1530 onwards, all the Dixies and Brown Coats gathered in the motor pool, waiting for the chance to pelt Four with questions about whether or not the situation that Three had reported was still the state of affairs in Lordsburg. Krista caught a glimpse of Boba walking around the corner of the machine shop with Rosa, and although they weren’t holding hands or anything of the sort, it seemed to her that they weren’t going off by themselves to discuss community affairs.

Krista took to throwing her field knife into a chunk of wood she found in a pile by the edge of the motor pool’s parking lot. Passing the time had been easy all day, but now with no more seminars or obstacle courses, all she could do was wait.

And wait she did. Everyone waited and nervously looked at their watches, trying to speak about something that didn’t involve Romeo Four or Lordsburg, but after a while, the day wore on and boredom began to takes its toll. Darius came up after a time, with Allen Stack in tow.

“Hey Krista. Haven’t seen much of you since the Captain let us off the leash. What you been doing?”

“Practicing knife throwing. It clears the mind, or at least it’s supposed to. I can’t think about anything else but Four. I just want them to come backs safely, that’s all.”

“Don’t worry Krista, Ray will be fine.” Darius added. “You’ll be able to ruin him for all other women soon enough. Bear in mind that we were the first ones in that town. We didn’t see shit, Three didn’t see shit, and soon, we’ll all be out there putting that place together.”

Allen spoke up. “I don’t know why Command is taking this whole thing at a snail’s pace. We could be operating there in six months, or at least that’s what a guy at the metal plant told me yesterday.”

“Slow and steady wins the race, Allen.” Darius steered them towards other matters. “Hey Krista, have you seen Boba or Rosa? Can’t find them anywhere.”

“They walked around the machine shop, but that was a while ago.”

“Together?” Allen asked.

“Yep, together.”

“I knew it,” Darius almost shouted. “Pay up, Stack.”

“What do you mean? You can’t confirm a damned thing, boss.”

“Bullshit. They went off together an hour ago and no one’s seen them since. What do you think they’re doing? Collecting for the United Way or something? How much more evidence do you need? What, am I supposed to get a 8mm of them boning before you pay up?”

Krista interrupted, “Darius, what the hell are you two talking about?”

He replied, “Oh, I bet Allen a six pack that Boba and Rosa would be doing it before the end of the month. Haven’t you seen the way they’ve been looking at each other? Those two are either doing it right now or talking about when they will. I’m telling you, I’ve got this one in the bag.”

Allen stopped him. “Not yet you don’t. They could be doing anything. We need something a little more convincing than them going off together.”

Krista blurted out, “Why doesn’t anyone tell me anything? I would have loved to have gotten in on that action.”

They bantered about whether or not Boba and Rosa would be knocking boots soon or not, or already were, and none of the three had looked at their watches and noticed that Romeo Four was half an hour overdue.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:10 pm

After the banter about the potential carnal association between Boba and Rosa petered out, Krista, Darius, and Allen began to hear a nervous grumbling from some of the other teams. Something was going on and the others were clearly getting uneasy about it.

Allen asked, “What’s everyone so on edge about? They weren’t like this when Three was out.”

Darius looked at his watch. “I think Four was supposed to be back by now. Maybe I’m wrong, but they might be overdue.”

Krista did her best to stay calm and did a fair job. Even if Four was late getting back, that could mean a thousand things. But she did spare some thoughts for Ray and the hope that he was all right. But Recon was now trained to a much higher standard than before, and not much could happen out there that couldn’t be handled. At least, that’s what she kept thinking.

Darius got his two teammates on their feet as Boba and Rosa came back, holding hands. “Guys, come on. Something’s up and I want to know what the hell it is. Oh, and Allen, there you go. They’re holding hands.” Boba got sheepishly red in the face, while Rosa allowed herself a bashful smile. “Yeah, you guys did something, I know it. Allen, you had better pay up before the end of the week.”

“All right, all right, you win.” Allen replied.

“What the hell are you two talking about?” Rosa asked.

Krista was all too happy to fill in that gap. “Oh, Darius and Allen have a little bet going on about whether or not you two are screwing. So, are you?”

Neither said anything, but looked at each other and silently tried to dodge the question.

“I fucking knew it.” Darius said triumphantly.

They all walked together to one of the maintenance buildings where most of Special Teams was gathered. Indeed, everyone seemed nervous. They were all speaking in low tones and looking at each other with obvious apprehension.

“What the hell’s going on?” Darius said, loudly enough that he was almost yelling.

“Recon Four is taking their sweet time getting back,” said someone from ALERT Three. “Something might have happened. We don’t know what. No dead or living in that shit hole town but something’s keeping them. No one seems to know shit.”

Krista was still not much more than a tad bit nervous, as while Four had been given a slightly more rigid schedule than Three had a couple of days earlier, she had always thought that making a schedule is the surest way to make sure nothing happens on time. But still, she herself had been on the first team into Lordsburg and Three had reported the same situation that they had seen themselves, so she couldn’t imagine what could be keeping Four. Krista didn’t believe for a second that a couple of thousand living dead had just happened to show up, and if something like that did happen, they would have radioed back for assistance and ALERT would be on their way already.

There were a thousand ways to convince herself that nothing serious had happened to them and they were just running behind (it wouldn’t be the first time a Recon team was dragging ass), but her thoughts did still linger on Raymond Fuller, out on a real operation for the first time, and whether or not he was all right. ALERT had done a bang-up job raising the proficiency level of Recon, and Ray had been through it, so again, she thought that anything that world outside could throw at them could be handled, or at least they would be able to call for backup. Krista had to walk away to avoid the doom and gloom that the conversation had become, until Captain Heyward, with a fully-armed and equipped Lieutenant Takagi right behind him, came walking briskly up to everyone and got their attention in fairly blunt fashion.

“Okay, everyone shut the hell up and gather around.” Once everyone from Special Teams formed a large, three-rowed semi-circle around Heyward, he began speaking and the tone of his voice made it abundantly clear that no one was going to interrupt him.

“Listen up, people. We’ve lost radio contact with Romeo Four and they’ve been out too long. It could mean a lot of things. Maybe their radios are down and they have a flat or something, but we just don’t know. First off, I don’t want any of you jumping to conclusions. Knock off all this shit about painting this whole thing as a disaster. It doesn’t help anyone. Secondly, if they don’t return by close of business tonight, we’re going out there tomorrow and we’re bringing them home. It’s getting late and if we send anyone out there now, it’ll be dark before they get anywhere near Lordsburg, and we don’t send anyone out at night, no exceptions, no questions asked. So, until they get back, no one goes home. Every damned one of you is staying on duty the whole night. Stay in your gear and ready to dance at a moment’s notice. The people from Support and Logistics will set up some tents and so on, but make no mistake, you are all sleeping right here tonight. Team leaders, do your pre-op checks right now in case we have to get out there in a hurry. Everyone, and I mean everyone, have everything you need before you catch any Z’s. Remember, first light and no word, we’re heading out. I’ll have more details for you in the morning. For now, shut the hell up about what you think happened because to state the matter simply, you don’t know shit and neither do we, but early tomorrow, we’re going to find out. Team leaders, get your people ready. We have a long night ahead of us and probably a longer day tomorrow. That is all. No questions, no comments, just turn to. Get on it, people.”

Now Ray preyed on Krista’s mind more than before. No radio contact, no chance of a rescue mission until morning, meaning that Ray was out there somewhere and unless they were heading back now at a solid speed, he and the rest of Recon Four were spending the night out there in that terrible world, something that to the best of her knowledge, no one in the colony had done since it was founded. She tried not to think about Ray but of course, it only made it harder to force him from her mind. It was gearing up to be the longest night of her life.

The longest night, apart from getting the news about Brad dying in a training accident. Krista tried to walk it off, but she could feel something, something uncomfortable, and turning around, she saw Ghost, leaning up against his Stryker, arms folded, and even through his skull mask, she knew that he was staring right at her.

For what reason, she didn’t know.

Krista gave up on trying to clear her mind and reported to Corporal Darius Hurst, hoping to be of some use to get her mind on the job where it needed to be.

Krista did not get one second of sleep that night. The rising run mocked her, as though it was silently beating her with the knowledge that it knew where Ray was and what happened to him while she still did not.

This was going to be a bad day. She knew it.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Kathy in FL » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:38 pm

Argh! Need moar!!!

OMG ... I've become one. Thanks a lot Pony, now I'm infected too. :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Wrecking Ball » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:56 am

Dude, not cool, how could you leave us with such an EPIC cliffhanger?!?!?!?!?? :lol: :lol: :lol:

MOAR MOAR MOAR MOAR MOAR.
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Ponyboy314 » Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:17 am

Krista watched the sun come up, having barely entered the tent that the Support and Logistics people had set up. Instead, she had spent the night looking at the stars, pacing around, and trying to avoid thinking about the terrible things that might be waiting in Lordsburg, even though trying to avoid such thoughts was futile. None of her efforts could keep thoughts of Ray Fuller from praying on her all night, and the hours clicked by with the speed of decades, but again, the sun came up in mocking fashion and told her in its own way that whatever had happened to Romeo Four in general and Ray Fuller in particular, it was close to time to go out there and see for herself. Whatever horrors lay outside that gate that had delayed Romeo Four, she was going to face it head on.

The sun had not risen high in the sky before Captain Heyward and Lieutenant Takagi ran around waking up everyone who had managed some sleep. They banged on the doors to the tents and told them bluntly that they had ten minutes to piss and brush their teeth, and they would be out the gate not long after that. Krista had long since drained her bladder but did brush her teeth, but after everyone was assembled in the motor pool, the day was laid out in front of them.

Captain Heyward began. “Listen up and listen good, people. Romeo Two and ALERT Five are staying in today. The rest of you are going out there and whatever happens, you are brining our people back. You’re being assembled into a convoy, with ALERT Four in the lead. You will head along the specified route to Lordsburg, secure the area, and locate Romeo Four. You will extract our people, alive or dead, and whatever has caused their delay, you will engage or avoid it depending on the situation. Lieutenant Takagi is in command of the operation in the field. All team leader will maintain contact with him via radio and anything of note will be passed to him, no exceptions. You will not be rogues or renegades, mark my damned words. You will provide mutual support and move when you are told to move. When you arrive in Lordsburg, Lieutenant Takagi will tell you where to go and what to do, which will change depending on the specifics of the situation. Two hours after you depart, I will order one of our medevacs in the air to get the wounded out if it comes to it. Now get out there. Get our people home. No matter what happens, just get them home.”

The team leaders of both the Dixies and the Brown Coats began shouting orders and everyone began boarding their busses and Stryker fighting vehicles. The team leaders got on the radios and did their checks, making sure that every other vehicle could hear them. The sounds of seven engines rumbling filled the chilly morning air and Takagi gave the order to get moving. Lieutenant Takagi had not been out of the colony in a year and a half or better, as he had moved up to the duties that took people out of the field, but here he was, riding along with ALERT Four, sharing his air with Sergeant Ghost, leading almost all of Special Teams down the road to either rescue Recon Four or police up their dead bodies, or undead bodies if things had gone really badly. Krista kept pace with the rest of the convoy, hands slipping here and there as her palms were increasingly sweaty with stress. She did her best to focus on the job, but the man she was growing to care about was out there somewhere and he needed her. She had no idea what they would find or how many nightmares would follow in its wake, but she was heading out to find the one man who had shown her nothing but kindness since the death of Arlen Bradford, the one man who did not force her to choke on the past, the one man she felt as though she could care about as much as she had about Brad.

Raymond Fuller was out there somewhere, and she was going to bring him home.

The sun continued rising at their backs as they reached Silver City, and Lieutenant Takagi had ordered the convoy slowed down in case Romeo Four had been forced to spend the night, but their bus was not visible and the moment they got past Silver City, and the dozen or so living dead that had begun staggering towards the convoy upon seeing it, Takagi got them back up to full speed.

They maintained their speed and the New Mexico desert flew past them. Lordsburg would not be long, but she kept hoping that ALERT Four would report seeing their bus out here on the open highway, forced to spend the night because of a simple mechanical failure, but of course, that did not happen. If it had, they would have radioed it in the afternoon before. They were ahead somewhere, probably trapped in a church or some such thing with a hundred walking corpses banging down the door, screaming all to hell that the radio was just not working and they were on their own. It was also possible that they had simply crashed, disabling their vehicle and their radio and were hoofing it east right now. It was also possible that they were all dead and had been since the day before. Anything was possible, and ‘anything’ included some terrifying scenarios that had proceeded to prey on the overworked mind of Constable Kristiana Showalter.

Her hands tensed on the steering wheel as they passed a sign reading “Lordsburg, 4 mi.”

Lieutenant Takagi’s voice cracked over the radio a couple of minutes later.

“Takagi to convoy. Reduce speed to maintain pace with lead vehicle.” Of course Krista followed the order, but was initially confused. They had kept a speed of about seventy miles an hour before and after Silver City, but now the convoy was slowing down to barely fifteen. There couldn’t have been a valid reason for slowing the convoy down so much without coming to a complete stop, but no sooner had she reduced her speed to fifteen that Takagi’s voice came back.

“Convoy, all stop.”

She stopped the bus with the rest of the convoy, confused as to what was happening and the rest of Romeo One muttering about it behind her, until Darius got them to knock it off.

“Okay people, okay, so we stopped. Don’t keep blabbing about why until we know what the hell is going on ahead of us. Wait a minute, what the hell is everyone doing?”

Krista looked out the window with the rest of her team and saw that some of the crews were exiting their vehicles, looking at something along the side of the road, something that she couldn’t see. No orders had come over the radio to disembark, but that’s what some were doing.

“What the hell is up? What are they looking at?” Allen Stack wondered aloud.

“Okay, everyone sling your rifles and follow me. Whatever the hell they’re looking at, it must be important, and I don’t want to be the only one in the dark.”

Darius led them out and they followed him up the right side of the parked convoy. Ahead of her, she could see Lieutenant Takagi standing next to Sergeant Ghost, looking up at something. Some of the rest of Special Teams were standing near them, seemingly unable to move. They got close enough and Krista froze, just as the rest of her team was doing and those ahead of her already had. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t formulate a thought, so complete was her terror.

A cross had been constructed on the side of the road not far from the Lordsburg town limits, one that had not been there when Romeo One had come through a few weeks earlier. It had apparently been made of two long railroad ties fastened together, the whole thing being nearly twelve feet high. The wood was charred, as was the corpse that was nailed to it.

The body was quite badly burned, to the point that blacked chunks of flesh barely hung on to the face of the dead man. Beneath him, also nailed to the cross, painted in what could have been simple red paint but seemed more like blood, was the word “heretic.”

Despite the horrible condition of the victim, enough was left to at least tell the horrified onlookers who he was. Krista especially found it easy to tell his indentity.

After all, she had gotten quite used to the face of Raymond Fuller lately.
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Re: The Woman and the Ghost

Post by Caenus » Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:47 am

Damn, the hills have eyes.
"If guns kill people, then I can blame mispelled words on my pencil." - Larry the Cable Guy

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