The Remaining

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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dantheremaining
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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:12 am

CHAPTER 2: INVESTIGATION

Bus seemed to gain his senses again. He reached out with a thick arm, course with wiry black hair, and grabbed Josh as the young man attempted to run past and join the crowd as they whisked the bitten girl off to Doc’s medical trailer.

“You’re with us,” Bus said, and when he spoke he had returned to his normal steady tone. “We gotta find where they’re coming through the fence.”

“But what about Kara?” Josh’s eyes were wide and concerned.

Bus looked the young man in the eye. “Let Doc handle that. You can’t do anything for her right now. We have other things to take care of. Now let’s go.”

Josh didn’t argue further. He nodded once and then both men turned towards Lee.

He quickly surveyed his surroundings and made a decision. “We need a fourth...” Lee spotted a familiar face. Miller, wasn’t it? The man in the red bandanna that had helped them escape Timber Creek with the use of some molotov cocktails. Lee waved him over. “Hey! Borrow you for a second?”

Miller took a second to recognize him in the darkness, but after shining his light a few times in Lee’s face, he came running over, hand on his holstered .38 Special to keep it from flopping around on his belt. “Yeah?”

He was roughly the same age as Josh, but taller, and his features more gaunt. While Josh gave the impression of someone much younger, everything about Miller was older, from the squint of his eyes to his confident-but-not-cocky stride. There was something else there, too. Something in the tilt of his head, in the set of his jaw. Miller liked to fight.

Lee pointed to the fence behind the trash bins, as it was the closest section of fence to their current location. “We’ll both start there. Run the fence-line in opposite directions and see if we can find where the infected are getting through. If you find the hole, post up and secure it as best you can until we all meet back up.”

Three heads nodded quickly.

“Bus, you and I will go clockwise. Miller and Josh, you guys go counterclockwise.” Lee and Bus took off for the fence at a trot and began walking briskly along it, inspecting the integrity of the chain links as they went.

Lee had asked for Bus to team up with him because he wanted a chance to talk to him. There were things about their most recent encounter that disturbed him, things he wanted a second opinion on, and things he needed explained about how things worked in Camp Ryder.

While they walked, Lee spoke. “What happens to the girl now?”

“Kara?” Bus mumbled absently. “Doc will amputate and hope for the best.”

Lee almost stopped in his tracks. “Amputate? Are you kidding me?”

Bus shook his head, looking briefly run down. “No. The faster they cut Kara’s arm off, the better chance she has of not contracting FURY. Doc figures it works about half the time, which is better than 100% chance of infection. Only problem is that most of the time the amputation goes septic. Or they lose too much blood.” Bus swore bitterly. “We just don’t have the medical equipment. It’s like the fucking Stone Age again. Like civil-war surgeons just hacking off limbs with saws and crossing their fingers.”

Lee couldn’t think of anything else to say. The concept of amputation to prevent bacterial infection through a bite or open wound seemed to be a reckless medical maneuver, but when faced with the certainty of turning into one of them, the amputation had a cold practicality.

Lee pressed on: “Did you notice anything about those last infected?”

Bus didn’t answer immediately. He stalked along and painted his flashlight over the length of fence before them but found it to be secure. When he finally spoke, he seemed to be choosing his words carefully. “I remember how they were a month ago.” He stopped walking and turned to look at Lee. “They were disjointed and confused. Lost. Insane. They attacked each other just as often as they attacked us. I don’t know what the hell is going on or how it’s happening so fast, but the groups are changing. Learning. And they’re doing it quickly.”

Lee pictured the dark shape darting out of the trash bins and circling the edge of the lamplight while they sat in their encirclement, weapons pointed out. The cold, blood-crusted talons dragging that young girl to the ground and the other trying to carry her off.

“Like a wolf pack,” Lee said, almost more to himself than to Bus. “Adaptation. Evolution. It doesn’t seem like they’re mindlessly attacking any more. It seems like they’re hunting us.”

Bus stopped and looked Lee in the eyes. “Bullshit,” he said.

Lee shrugged. “Think about it. That’s the first time you’ve ever seen them come from both directions. Usually they’re in one slid group and they just charge you. This was different. It was like they were trying to distract us so the other two could get in close.”

Bus didn’t answer. He just started walking along the fence line again. The truth was that the words were bitter. It was not an “ah-ha” moment, it was an “oh shit” moment. The infected were bad enough as a mindless herd. The thought of them in small packs, hunting them like prey, was a hard pill to swallow.

But Lee wasn’t willing to ignore the situation either.

“This is the first time we’ve seen them maneuver like that.” He followed along with Bus while he spoke. “When the situation changes, your tactics need to change along with them. If they’re getting smart enough to get past your chain link fence, we’re going to need to think of something else to keep them out.”

Bus shook his head fiercely. “Even a dog can dig himself under a fence. That doesn’t mean anything. They’re mindless shells of what once were human beings. They’re just running on auto pilot now. There’s no evolution in this.”

He sounded distraught, as though he were attempting to convince himself. I reject your reality, and substitute my own. Lee decided not to push it. He just hoped Bus had other things on his mind and wasn’t this unreceptive all the time.

Lee had to admit to himself that it was difficult to tell with the infected. Sometimes their actions seemed like the result of logical thought, and other times it just looked like instinct. Most of them appeared to be able to manipulate tools, but they weren’t using them properly, they were simply using them as blunt objects to strike out with. Just because a monkey can strike somebody in the head with a wrench, doesn’t mean it can fix your sink. They all seemed to hold on to some rudimentary intelligence, but it also seemed to vary from individual to individual. Just as some were more aggressive than others, some were more intelligent than others. But then the question arose again, was it intelligence or instinct? Lee kept coming back to the example of a wolf pack. When a pack hunts, singles out the weakest prey, and then flanks it to take it down, is the success of their hunt based on a premeditated plan, or ingrained animal instinct?

A voice came hollering across the compound. “Bus!”

Bus and Lee both looked and saw Miller running up, breathing heavily. “I think we found where they came in.” He took a big gulp of air. His eyes darted back and forth, carrying grave meaning. “I think you should take a look at it.”

Miller turned on his heel and started jogging back across the compound. They followed behind him, their flashlights strobing up and down as they ran. Lee took a side-long glance across the center of the compound and saw the crowd at the medical trailer being pushed out by a man Lee didn’t recognize. From inside the trailer Lee could hear screaming, high-pitched and wretched. Doc had begun the amputation.

“Right here.” Miller had stopped and was pointing.

They turned the corner of a shanty made out of aluminum siding and blue tarp. Lee and Bus looked forward as they slowed to a walk and approached what Miller was pointing at, confusion passing over their faces followed by a deep, dreadful uncertainty. They looked at each other and then back at the object of their attention.

An opening had been peeled back from the fence, from top to bottom. The chain-links had been pulled away and rolled up like two sides of a scroll. Only they weren’t pushed inside, but pulled outwards and tucked in so neatly to create the man-sized breach in their defenses that it left little room for question about who or what had done this.

It was at that time that Lee and Bus both noticed a low, husky voice, quietly intoning some strange narrative: “...but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves...

“What the fuck is that?” Bus glared and shot his flashlight towards the sound of the voice. The flashlight played around a bit and then found the culprit. Nestled in a patch of over-grown grass at the corner of the shack was a small black CD player, round and glistening like an insect’s head, the two bulbous speakers stared up at them like compound eyes.

...the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible...

Bus moved swiftly forward, raising his foot as though to stomp the thing out of existence but Lee’s hand shot out and grabbed him by his arm, hauling him backwards. Bus looked at him like he was about to turn that foot on Lee, but then understanding dawned.

Lee nodded. “Might want to check that out real good before you go stomping around it. Depending on who put it there, it could be booby-trapped.”

Bus managed a half-hearted smile. “That’s why I keep you around.” He gestured towards the CD player. “I’m guessing you have much more experience with booby-traps than I do. You tell me.”

The voice, supremely ignorant of the circumstances, continued its droning: “...the blue waters interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake...

Lee gave the big man a humorless smirk and leaned forward with extreme caution. He shined the flashlight first around the immediate area of his feet, then lit up the patch of overgrown grass. When he saw nothing to alarm him he stepped forward and peered down into the nest of grass, working the flashlight around at different angles.

...the hunters who namelessly transported and allured by all this serenity, had ventured to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude...

Lee let out a long breath and relaxed a bit. Then he knelt down and stabbed the top of the CD player with his finger. The black cover popped open and the disembodied voice went silent. Underneath, a white disk spun madly at first, and then came to a gradual stop. Lee reached his hand in and plucked the CD from the tray, looking at the title and reading aloud: “Moby Dick by Herman Mellville. It’s an audiobook.”

Bus’s face was made of granite. “Hilarious.”

Lee shook his head. “I don’t think it was a joke.”

Miller chimed in, pointing to the neatly clipped ends of the chain links. “Pretty sure someone cut their way through this...looks like bolt cutters.” Bus regarded Miller with a dubious look, to which Miller responded, drably, “I wasn’t always the upstanding citizen I am now.”

“Milo?” Lee suggested.

Bus crossed his arms. “I don’t see who else would be interested in fucking with us, and given our recent tiff, I think that’s a pretty good deduction.”

“Why not just attack us?” Josh finally spoke.

Lee offered a possible answer. “Because a day attack is too easily defended and they know they can’t be out in the woods at night because of the infected. So you use the infected. Cut a hole in the fence. Put a CD player with just enough volume to attract the infected, but not get noticed by us.”

“Kind of clever if you think about it.” Bus was staring grimly out at the dark woods. “Audiobook just sounds like some guy talking. Music would have caught our attention.”

Everyone that had survived up to this point seemed to know that the infected had nearly super-human hearing at night when they became more active. Lee had to assume that because of this, Camp Ryder enforced noise discipline at night. Even at the low volume it had been set, the CD player had probably been the loudest noise coming out of the camp, though it probably would have gone unnoticed by regular ears or dismissed as a quiet family discussion.

Lee stood up and stepped to Bus’s side. “I think maybe you should tell me about Milo.”

Bus nodded, then pointed to Miller and Josh. “You two patch up that fence. Only one of you working at a time, the other keep watch. Don’t let anyone else sneak in. I’ll send someone else down to help you.” Bus turned to Lee. “Walk with me.”

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Re: The Remaining

Post by URBAN ASSAULT » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:31 am

I'm really enjoying this, thanks for your hard work.

-urban
"When under imminent Predator attack, try to act all Thalidomide-y till they go away".-me
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Re: The Remaining

Post by teachermom44 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:38 pm

Thanks! Looking for more of course. :D

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Re: The Remaining

Post by GotMak » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:10 am

teachermom44 wrote:Thanks! Looking for more of course. :D
+1
"That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of Democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." George Orwell

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Re: The Remaining

Post by Rumsfeld » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:35 pm

***
Last edited by Rumsfeld on Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Remaining

Post by Manliest » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:45 pm

Dude, you're better than most professional writers in this genre.

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Re: The Remaining

Post by Nancy1340 » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:16 am

Good to see more great writting from you. Thanks.

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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:55 am

**This is the last half of Chapter 2...will post Chapter 3 in a bit**

The two men walked through the darkness, their flashlights casting a dull glow off the ground before them and just barely illuminating their tired faces. Most everyone had gone back to their makeshift homes, but a few stragglers still made their way through the dark. Unlike the deep silence of early morning, there was still a whisper of excitement: quiet voices echoing out of wood and tin shacks, holding furtive conversations. Lee had to wonder how many other infected were in the area to hear those barely audible whispers?

Lee looked up at the sky and saw the faint glimmer of dawn to the east, or perhaps it was his imagination. It wasn’t until you spent time outside of the comfort of civilization that you began to realize why people in ages past feared the night. The night was long, it was uncomfortable, and it was dangerous. The dawn marked the end of the dark misery and the return of warmth and safety.

“You know what time it is?” Lee looked briefly at Bus.

“About four in the morning.”

Lee felt his heart sink. The light to the east was just his imagination after all. Dawn was two long hours away and there would be no sleeping after this. The pain in Lee’s back was beginning to catch up to him.

A dark figure strode up to them as they crossed the center of camp. All Lee could see was the figure’s right side, illuminated by the cold blue light of an LED lantern. As the figure approached, it raised the lantern up to eye-level and Lee recognized the pursed face and the balding dome of his head, washed out and pale in the glow. The angle of the light cast shadows that made his face look weirdly severe.

Lee thought he remembered Miller calling the man “Bill.”

He was the one who had resisted bringing them back to camp, only to be convinced by Lee’s arguments and Miller’s pleading to give them a chance. He was of average height, and probably average weight before he had been forced to ratchet down on his belt during these lean times. He was probably in his forties and going bald on top, with a ring of wiry gray-brown hair. Overall, his body language and his facial expression communicated to Lee that he was not a pleasant person to be around.

“Bus.” He nodded to his superior with respect then turned a somewhat disdainful eye on Lee. “Are you supposed to be up? I thought Doc wanted you recuperating.”

Lee was about to respond, but Bus cut him off, and Lee was grateful. He was too tired to argue. With a dismissing wave of one meaty hand, Bus said, “Harper, we have a problem. Captain Harden is just helping me out, and then I will let him go straight back to bed.”

The man’s cold silence said enough.

Lee quirked his eyebrows. “So is it Bill or Harper?”

“Bill Harper,” he said with a grumble. “Miller’s the only one that calls me Bill. Everyone else calls me Harper.”

Lee nodded. “Harper it is.”

Bus led the trio towards the large building that towered over the shantytown that sprawled out before it. A castle amongst the villagers’ mud huts. It was a two-story cement structure with very few windows that Lee could see. Purely industrial, with very little to beautify it. Lee wasn’t sure what it had been used for prior to the arrival of its current occupiers, but he immediately began looking for its strong points, its weak points, and how it could be improved as a defensive location. If a firefight occurred inside the compound, the thin walls of the shanties would provide very little protection. The building would have to be their defense.

It had a lot going for it. In addition to no windows and concrete walls, Lee could only see one entrance which was two steel doors flanked by narrow side-lights--too narrow for a man to squeeze through. The roof looked like it was easily accessible, and Lee imagined some sandbags and few machine gun nests up there could lay a pretty damn good field of fire on any attacking force.

Infected or otherwise.

Lee pointed up towards the big building. “What do you guys use it for?”

“When we first got here, we all lived inside,” Bus explained. “We very rarely left out. The security of the fence was no big deal, because the building was our security. We welded the cargo-bay doors shut, which left only two sets of double doors to worry about—the ones you’re looking at now, and another set on the opposite side. We had everyone in there, but it was only about twenty people.”

They reached the double doors and Bus pushed them open. The first thing Lee noticed was the smell. It was the smell of the refugee camps outside Al-Waleed and the smell of a homeless shelter he’d once visited in D.C. It was sweating bodies and grimy clothes, exacerbated by the warm air. Lee could only imagine it was much worse during the day.

After the double doors, a short hallway opened into the main portion of the building where Lee could see that the Ryder trucks had once been serviced. But instead of trucks and tools and lifts, Lee only saw another collection of shanties, these built less sturdy than the ones outside, and more for the purpose of privacy. Lee thought there were about fifteen different dwellings crammed into the space, most of them with a lantern glowing inside. All the lamp-light eking through wooden slats cast a kaleidoscope of light on the ceiling.

Bus guided the three of them to the right and they began to ascend a metal staircase. “After the shit officially hit the fan and FEMA tucked its tail and ran, we started getting a steady trickle of survivors. We tried to take in only people that had something to contribute, but...” Bus trailed off. “It was tough. A lot of tough decisions had to be made.”

They reached the top of the stairs and Bus opened a door to a small office that overlooked the floor. Lee supposed it had once housed a foreman or supervisor. Inside, it was sparsely furnished with a few folding chairs, a large desk and a big cork-board with a county map pinned to it. Bus stepped behind the desk but didn’t sit. He continued speaking as he stood there, fishing through one of the desk drawers. “We eventually got too crowded for everyone to fit in the building, so we allowed people to start making their camps outside. Seeing that it was safe, some of the people that were living in here decided to move out too. You think it looks cramped now, you should have seen it before.” Bus sighed. “Pretty soon, we’ll have too many for that, and then we’ll have some real problem-solving to do.”

Bus finally found what he was looking for and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He smiled wanly at it, and gestured his two companions towards the folding chairs. “Have a seat, gentlemen.”

Harper and Lee both took a chair facing the desk.

Bus snagged the chair behind the desk and hauled it over to the front, so the three men were positioned in a small circle. He took his seat with a sigh, adjusting the straps of his holster. He leaned back and unscrewed the cap off the whiskey. “Wish I could say it was good stuff, but it ain’t.” He took a swig and offered the bottle to Harper, who accepted.

“So...” Lee tapped his fingers on his knee.

There was a long, awkward silence as Bus stared at Harper, who stared at the bottle in his hands. Harper seemed to take notice of the silence and looked up at Lee. “Did we have a problem you were going to help us with?”

Bus leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Harper, we found a hole cut in the fence. Someone had put a CD player on the ground, playing an audiobook to attract infected. We think it was Milo.”

Harper deflated with a single long sigh. He leaned back and finally took a swig of the whiskey with a violent grimace on his face. Then he passed the bottle to Lee. “Yeah...Milo.”

Lee smiled, unsurely. “What’s the backstory on this guy?”

Harper looked to Bus and seemed to be waiting for him to take the reigns.

“Uh-uh.” Bus folded his arms. “You tell him. Milo’s your brother.”

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Re: The Remaining

Post by KeithCB » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:02 am

Started reading chapter four there and had to stop myself from going on. I'm re-reading IT now, but this one just might be next on my list (breaking my own rule here) :wink:

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The Remaining

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:03 pm

MOAR!!!!

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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:36 am

Sorry for the delay. Apparently I'm still expected to make an appearance at my "real job." Sheesh...

CHAPTER 3: BLOOD TIES

Lee eyed the plastic bottle in his hands as he waited for Harper to collect himself. It was a fifth of whiskey. Bottom shelf stuff, which was a shame, but Lee didn’t want to offend. He took a sip and swallowed as fast as possible, trying to avoid letting the harsh liquid sit on his tongue for longer than necessary.

He managed to get it down without too much of a grimace and passed the bottle on, then leaned back in his chair and looked at Harper. In the well-lit room, there was much more to see than just the harsh lines that his lantern had thrown on his face. Lee noted his dirty hands, blistered and torn up from hard work but lacking that permanent, calloused thickness of a lifetime of manual labor. The wrinkles on his face that seemed unpleasant in the darkness now looked like old smile lines and laugh lines that had simply fallen into disuse. A scowl seemed to be his predominant expression.

Having the full picture, Lee realized it wasn’t so much that Bill Harper was a naturally unpleasant person, but that he’d become unpleasant due to his circumstances. And really, who could blame him? Maybe he’d once been a happy, soft man, living a soft life, with a soft job. But now, in the harsh reality of the new world, he had to fit in, had to find his place, and most of all, had to survive. Harper was in the process of turning into a colder, harder, more pragmatic version of himself.

Harper seemed to gather the story and then began speaking with a loud exhale. “Milo and I were born ten years apart. I’m the older. Our mother was raising us by herself, so by the time Milo was starting school, she wanted me to get a job. So I got a job. I finished school. Got a scholarship. Worked my way through college. But Milo...he never cared to be committed to anyone, let alone his family. He was the wild one. While I was working, he was partying, getting locked up, and costing me more goddamn money. I can’t remember how many times I had to wire mom money to bail him out.

“Milo just never grew up. He lived with my mom in their shitty-ass trailer until she died a few years back from lung cancer, thanks to sixty years of Virginia Slims. Then he sat in that trailer and continued being the shit bag that he is. Meanwhile, I’d become successful. I worked for a bank, made a 100K-plus salary, and I owned some land outside Wilkesboro. Even though he never worked for shit in his life, I think Milo resented my success.

“When all this went down, Milo shows up at my property out of the blue and starts talking about family and how we’re blood and we owe it to each other. Just a whole big, chip-on-the-shoulder bullshit speech. I know my brother, even though we were never close, and he’s a manipulator. But damn me, I’m a weak man and I didn’t want to rock the boat. He was family after all, so me and my wife took him in.

“Then they evacuated us. First to Wilkes County Airport, and from there they bussed us and choppered us over to the camp in Sanford. That lasted less than a day before it got overrun by infected.” Harper stopped there and laughed bitterly. “At the time, they didn’t really know much about noise discipline around the infected, so you have the camp in Sanford, with almost no perimeter defense, bright lights on 24/7, choppers landing and taking off at all hours of the night. Seemed like they attracted every fucking crazy in the eastern half of the state.

“Anyway,” the bitter smile fled from Harper’s lips and now there was only that slate-gray scowl. “Milo made it out, but not my wife. Not a trade I would have brokered. But me and him were alive and we started walking. Didn’t know where we were going. Just surviving. Eventually we came across Camp Ryder before their requirements became a little more stringent, and Bus here let a fumbling banker and his asshole brother stay.

“After about a week, Milo started getting stir crazy. Started talking about how we needed to fight the infected. You’d have thought he woke up one day and thought he was in a war movie, the stupid fuck. He disappears for a day and comes back riding a goddamn Hummer with a machine gun on the back, driven by two other worthless shitheads that he’d found--he’s always been a magnet for shithead friends. He just pulls right into Camp Ryder like he owns the place and lays down an ultimatum: we can join him and fight the infected, or we can get in his way and suffer the consequences.”

Harper’s eyes darkened. “Naturally, we told him to go fuck himself. He drove off without a word, but just as he was about to drive out of sight, he lets a burst loose from that .50 cal on his Hummer.” Harper rubbed his face. “Hit a ten year old girl and her mother. This was before Doc came here, so we lost the mother almost immediately. Thought the girl was going to pull through, but her wound went septic and she died.”

Harper straightened up in his chair and planted his hands on his knees. “Ever since then, he has been collecting other people like himself--criminals and lowlives--and running around pillaging everything and everyone. And that is why there is no love lost between us, and why I will put a bullet in his brain the next time I see him.”

Lee raised his brow. He was thinking of the people that had attacked them at Jack Burnside’s house and had burned his house to the ground. They’d had a Humvee, and the description was very similar. The thought put a flash of heat down his back. “Any other group out there causing problems, or is it pretty much just Milo?”

Bus fielded the question. “From what we can tell, if there were any separate groups, they’ve all been absorbed into Milo’s. We estimate he has about thirty men, but they’re kind of scattered around the county. He usually only keeps ten or so with him.”

Lee took a long moment to lean back in his chair, stair at the floor, and consider the ramifications of this new information. At first glance, Milo was an enemy to be defeated. At second glance, Milo was the leader of another group of approximately thirty survivors. It seemed pretty obvious that Bus wanted Milo and his group wiped off the face of the earth, but Lee had to consider what was best for his mission. Granted, given their previous actions, Lee didn’t think they were very open to the concept of allying with him, but the only way to find out would be to talk to them.

Lee kept those cards close to his chest.

Bus took a sip of harsh whiskey and shuddered. “Okay...now that we have our history lesson behind us, I need to steer this towards the meat of the conversation: the breach in the fence.” Bus capped the whiskey and set it behind him on his desk. Then he crossed his arms and allowed a sour expression to push through his heavy, bearded face. “Someone cut that fence up, and I need to know who and when.”

Harper puffed air and looked around the room, without much to say.

“Well,” Lee looked between the two other men. “I’m going to say it happened at night. Probably sometime within the last two hours.”

“Okay...” Bus waited for elaboration.

“I can’t imagine it taking the infected that long to track down the source of the noise. Even with their hearing at night, they would still have had to be pretty close by.” Lee explained. “I think if we say it happened any earlier than maybe an hour or two, we’re being unrealistic. In all likelihood, they were at the fence within minutes.”

Bus looked skyward as though trying to figure something. “That doesn’t make any sense. If it was placed recently, it would have been nighttime. They would have had to travel through the woods at night, which kind of defeats the whole purpose.”

“If I was them, I would have had someone set up in the woods before dark,” Lee said. “Somewhere close to the fence, so when the time came, they could cross the distance without too much noise.”

“They’d still have to get out,” Bus argued. “And if you’re sending in one man, why not send in twenty and take the place over?”

“Because no matter how quiet they are, twenty men will make more noise than one,” Lee answered. “As for getting out after setting the trap, all they would have to do was run along the fence to the dirt road and they’d be home free.”
Bus considered this, then looked to Harper. “Who was on watch?”

“Sue and Stan,” Harper replied.

“You may want to speak to them,” Bus put in.

Lee leaned forward. “How often do they check the fence? Once an hour? Once a half-hour?”

Harper seemed to resent having to answer Lee’s questions, but he squinted his eyes and did some arithmetic in his head. “Takes about ten minutes to walk the perimeter, then they spend another ten or fifteen minutes on their sentry points...Yeah, probably between twenty and thirty minutes.”

“Plenty of time to snip-snip and plant the talking box,” Lee said. “Then run to the dirt road and make a good escape. May have had a car waiting out at the road. If they moved fast enough, they would have avoided the sentries and the infected.”

Harper seemed to be coming around to Lee’s point of view. “And at that point, there’s no harm in running, even if it makes more noise. In fact, it may have just increased their odds of attracting infected to the area. The guy running doesn’t care because he’s about to get in a car and drive away.”

Bus took a breath to speak but someone started banging on the office door, causing the whole thing to rattle. Lee looked up and could see a dark figure standing on the walkway outside through the smokey glass. Bus let the breath out in a slow defeated huff and Lee got the feeling that Bus already knew what the person wanted, and it wasn’t good.

“Come on in,” Bus said, just loud enough to be heard.

The door swung open and a boy’s face on a large man’s body stepped in. The big kid easily stood over six feet and probably weighed over 200 pounds. He wore dirty old overalls that made him look like a farm hand and wrung a tattered up baseball cap in his hands. His eyes were red and strained and his whole body shook.

“Uh...Bus...” The kid looked at the floor. “We lost Kara. Doc tried, but...” The kid sobbed once then shamefacedly stared at the floor with his mouth closed tight.

A low, miserable noise came out of Harper as he leaned back and set his gaze on the dingy ceiling tiles. He bared his teeth as though experiencing some deep physical pain. Bus stood up suddenly and stepped over to Harper, putting a big hand on the other man’s knee and patting it slowly. To the kid, who appeared on the verge of losing himself again, Bus gave his shoulder a quick squeeze and thanked him for coming to tell them. The kid nodded and hurriedly left.

Harper stood out of his seat, shaking his bald head.

Steady as usual, Bus spoke calmly. “We should go down there.”



***I'll get the rest of Chapter 3 up shortly...***

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Re: The Remaining

Post by KeithCB » Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:19 am

Just saw the return of "The Remaining" to the Kindle charts. I check most days to see where all folks are, and noticed yesterday the book was missing! Was that intentional? Like, you had a promotional day?

Otherwise, if it was a lapse in programming, glad to see it's all straightened out!

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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:14 am

I think it was a lapse in programming. I noticed the same thing. Seems like Kindle/Amazon has been switching up their page design a lot lately.

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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:24 am

The medical trailer was a mess of gore.

The infected that Lee had brained with the microscope had not been removed but simply pushed to the side, like a pile of dirty laundry. A dark stain ran from the coagulated pool where the creature had first fallen to where it had been shoved aside. It lay up against the wall now, half on its side, half leaning on the wall, with one dead arm slung limply over its face. Lee could still see those blank eyes, as lifeless as a doll’s, staring up at the ceiling.

Doc had used Lee’s cot to conduct the operation, amputating Kara’s arm in a futile attempt to save her life. No anesthetic. No blood transfusions. Not even a real operating table. Just a dirty cot draped with thin plastic sheeting, now streaked and dappled with blood.

Outside, the sound of grief was like fingernails on a chalkboard to Lee. The weeping of families always made him feel strange and tense, and he thought of Afghani mothers pulling their limp children out of the ruins of a hut that a misguided JDAM had nearly disintegrated. Bus and Harper were with the people as they groaned and wept for another one lost. Not the first. Certainly not the last. But another one.

Only Doc remained in the tent. The younger man sat on a crate at the table where all his medical equipment lay, his scraggly brown hair hanging over his face. He stared straight ahead, perhaps at his bloody hands that lay like dead things on the table, or perhaps simply at the wall.

The sounds of grieving began to move away from the medical trailer. Lee took a few steps over to the table where Doc sat and put a hand on his shoulder. The skinny medical student cringed and shrugged it off.

“Wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” he shook his head slowly. “It wasn’t.”

Lee didn’t immediately respond. He felt awkward, like a bull tiptoeing through the proverbial china shop. Finally he decided to forgo the platitudes and stick to the facts. “Doc, you’re barely even equipped to stitch someone up after a bad fall, let alone perform major surgery. It had to be done, and you were the one that had to do it. No one blames you that it didn’t turn out well. It’s just the way that one went.”

Doc’s head tilted back and a strange, humorless chuckle escaped him. He met Lee’s gaze and there was something intense and disturbing in it. Something that immediately made Lee uncomfortable. “You don’t get it, man. It’s my fault. And they will blame me. Maybe not now, but they will. They will eventually blame me.”

Lee opened his mouth to speak, but a heavy hand fell on his shoulder.

He was preparing to turn and address the person, but then the hand was suddenly pressing down on him and spinning him around. Lee had just enough time to see the incoming haymaker and throw his left arm up to block. His arm absorbed most of the blow but whoever the hell it was had thrown their body into it and the fist still bounced off the side of his head, causing him to stumble.

What the...?

Subconsciously, Lee’s feet spread wide and his elbows tucked in. He didn’t register the face, only the dark, aggressive shape, narrow slits of eyes, and a grimacing face broadcasting the next blow, this one a stiff right uppercut aimed at his solar plexus. Even as he saw the incoming strike, Lee’s mind raced, trying to explain what was happening. It couldn’t be an infected--it displayed too much control. But why would anyone in the camp want to hurt him?

Was it one of Milo’s men?

Lee pivoted to avoid the blow, but it still caught him in the side and had enough steam behind it to send a bolt of pain into his ribs. Lee managed to trap the arm against his side and held it tight. His attacker tugged back, attempting to free himself. Lee got low and sent a swift knee into the side of his attacker’s thigh, crunching the common peroneal nerve and toppling his attacker almost immediately.

Lee went down with him, still holding his attacker’s arm. He cocked his free hand back and was ready to deliver a hammer blow to the larynx and end the fight instantly when he took a breath and looked down, only to find a kid staring back up at him. Maybe a little more than a kid. But definitely less than a man.

Lee stopped himself.

The moment seemed to stretch awkwardly as he stared, shocked, at the eyes of his attacker and saw nothing but pure loathing. The only thought circling in Lee’s head came tumbling out of his mouth: “What the fuck’s wrong with you?”

There was shouting and Lee realized he was surrounded by a crowd that had poured in through the mouth of the medical trailer during the brief struggle. The shouting had a distinct sound to it that told him the crowd was not on his side.

A voice broke through the background noise: “Get off my son!”

Lee looked up in time to see a boot catch him in the shoulder and shove him backwards. Lee didn’t resist the force, but rolled with it. He felt the cold steel floor across his back and then white fire from his stitches. He winced as he recovered and got his knees back under him.

More shouts: “Did you see what he did?”

“He’s one of them!”

“He let those fuckers in!”

Are they talking about me?

Then Doc’s voice, stressed and high-pitched above the others: “Would everyone get the fuck out of my trailer! Get the fuck out! OUT!”

Lee fought off the blazing pain in his back and focused. In front of him he could see Doc’s back, his arms spread wide. They swooped rapidly back and forth as though the crowd that had gathered were a flock of birds that might be shooed away. Over the tops of Doc’s shoulders Lee caught the stares of several people and he didn’t like what he saw.

Anger.

Mistrust.

Hatred.

The man that Lee had earlier identified as Kara’s father stepped forward quickly and pulled the kid up off the ground. Get off my son, he’d yelled. Which meant that Lee’s attacker was Kara’s brother.

They were all family.

The crowd absorbed Kara’s father and brother as they backpedaled, all eyes still on Lee while Doc raved at them to get out. Watching those people stare at him, Lee thought that he had never felt so abundantly alienated, so obviously on the outside. Did they truly blame him for what had happened? Was it just because he was a stranger to them? Or was there something else that he was missing?

Bus made his way through the gathered people like a ship’s bow cutting through water. He did not look happy. Nearly a head taller than everyone else, Lee could see his eyes glaring from underneath furrowed brows.

“What the hell is all this about?” He shouted.

Lee wasn’t sure whether the question was directed at him or the hostile crowd. The big man now stood between Lee and the crowd, with both arms stretched out as though he were holding the two parties away from each other by the sheer force of his will.

Kara’s father stepped out of the crowd, but didn’t try to get past Bus. He just pointed one finger at Lee and began shouting. “He’s with Milo! He’s gotta be! We heard about the breach in the fence! He did it! It had to be him!” Spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed, his cheeks and forehead becoming red with rage.

Lee could tell that Bus hadn’t expected that. He stood there, looking taken aback.

Doc sounded like he was on the edge of panic. “I don’t know what you’re fucking talking about. The captain has been in the medical trailer all night.”

Kara’s father--Steve, wasn’t it?--directed his ire at Doc. “How do you know he was here? You were in the Ryder building for almost an hour. He could have done it then.”

Bus tried stepping in. “Steve, this is ridiculous...”

“Ridiculous?” Steve shouted. “Ridiculous that I don’t want to trust the guy that just got here? Is it so crazy what I’m saying? Have we ever had a breach like that in our fences before? Someone cut that shit--Miller said so himself. And here we are, harboring strangers. So who do you think did it, Bus? One of us?”

Bus floundered for a moment. He could say that it was Milo’s men that cut the fence, but Steve and his supporters obviously believed that Lee had allied himself with Milo. It was also clear that they were so incensed at this moment, nothing Bus could say would sway their opinion. He needed time to let the people calm down. And he needed Lee to speak with them. If Lee could speak with them, he could convince them, just like he’d convinced Bus.

Forced to ride the fence, Bus nodded curtly. “Okay. Everybody out. Let me handle this.”

“How are you going to handle it?” Steve demanded.

“Steve,” Bus said with a quiet warning in his voice. “You know me. You know you can trust me. Now go. Let me handle this.”

Steve seemed to consider the words as he stared at Lee with barely controlled anger. His fists, balled at his side, his lips a thin gash across his face, tears welling up in his eyes. But eventually he nodded to Bus, and he turned away from them.
The hostile grumble of the crowd died to a low murmur as everyone followed Steve out of the trailer. Lee stood up, feeling weakness in the muscles along his spine and then a brief chill washed over him that stung at the wounds on his back and then quieted. The two men faced each other a few feet apart, and Lee waited.

“Are you okay?” Bus spoke quietly and for the first time Lee sensed the complicated depth of the relationship between Bus and the people of Camp Ryder. The strong man, yes. The figurehead, yes. Their brave spokesman, yes. But he was not in control in a situation like this. When fear was the dominate emotion, he issued orders and people listened, because fearful people need a leader. But when anger took over, the mob became more powerful, and the leader became just a mouthpiece.

Lee nodded slowly. “I’m assuming that was Kara’s family.”

“Yes.” There was a long silence, in which Bus looked deep in mental calculations. After a moment, he looked to Doc. “How long until his stitches heal?”

Doc, flustered and sweating now, raked a finger through is natty hair. “Uh...Six weeks until I take them out.”

“How long until he’s healed enough to go out?”

Doc looked at Lee, his jaw muscles bulging and a vein beginning to stand out under his left eye. “Probably a week before I could be sure the wounds won’t get infected. But they won’t be properly healed and they could tear open and renew the chance for infection.”

Bus let a slow, deep breath hiss through his teeth. “Captain, is there any proof you can give me that you aren’t with Milo’s men?”

Lee’s stomach dropped.

Was this for real? Were they all serious about this? An hour ago, he was their friend, and now they were accusing him of being a spy for Milo? It bordered on absurdity. But as absurd as he thought it was, he had no way to refute it. No way but to simply deny the charges. “No. I don’t have any proof. Just my word.”

“Okay. We’ll figure something out.” Then Bus turned. “Miller! Harper!”

The two men appeared suddenly out of the crowd, appearing red faced and uncomfortable. They walked awkwardly into the medical trailer, flanking Bus. Miller on the right, Harper on the left.

Lee tensed. He eyeballed the two men, finding himself evaluating them as he would an enemy combatant. He did not want to harm these people, but if it came down to violence, he intended to be the one walking away. Harper looked mean but Lee was confident in his earlier assessment of the man. As hard-assed as Harper had become, he’d still led a cushy life prior to the collapse of society. Lee could probably overpower him easily. Miller posed a bit more of a problem. He looked like he enjoyed a fight and had the look of someone that got into his fair share of them. While he might not have any formal training, experience was more important. Lee hedged his bets that Miller was a stand-up fighter. He would need to take his legs out.

Bus looked at Lee, but spoke to his men. “Watch the captain while Doc tends to him.” Bus swiped a quick hand across his brow. “I’m sorry, captain. But I don’t think you should leave the trailer for right now.”

Lee’s shoulders pinched up slightly. “Am I being arrested?”
His eyes traveled back and forth between Bus, Harper, and Miller. None of them had an answer for him, because it was the truth, but they didn’t want to admit it. He was being arrested. He had come to Camp Ryder and promised them supplies and assistance, and rather than accept his help, they were holding him in a trailer against his will.

Looking the gift-horse in the mouth.

Lee had the urge to tell them to go fuck themselves. He could make a break for it, still in possession of the GPS. He could continue his mission with another group, one less paranoid and less hostile. But the nagging thought occurred to him: what if there’s no one else?

And what about Angela and Abby and Sam?

And what about the mission?

He had to focus on the mission.

In this surreal situation, the concept of the mission was, for once, a comfort. It grounded him and gave him a sense of the big picture. This was not personal, it was business, and his business was the completion of his mission. This was a community that he could render aid to, a community that eventually could not only provide stability in the region, but a waypoint for him to base further operations out of. This was the first step.

But he had to earn their trust.

It would not be given.

The only alternative was to abandon them. If he abandoned them they would conclude that they had been right about him all along. Their group of survivors would either whither and die, or eventually Lee would have to deal with them again. And they would be much harder to convince the next time around.

If Camp Ryder was going to be an asset to him, it was now or never.

Lee stood up and very slowly raised his right hand. With his left, he pulled up the smiley-face t-shirt, exposing the small pocket pistol he’d stuck in his waistband. He watched them all stare at the pistol, even some of the people outside. The implication Lee made was obvious. A guilty man, someone spying for Milo, would have kept the weapon so he could later escape with it. Instead he was choosing to cooperate.

Lee nodded to Harper. “Go ahead.”

Harper glanced up at Lee’s face, his eyes sharp as arrowheads.

Lee thought that maybe Harper would get some sort of satisfaction from this, considering he had not been a fan of Lee’s to begin with, but he did not appear to be enjoying himself. In fact, he looked even more miserable than usual.

“Miller,” Harper spoke quietly. “Take the gun from Captain Harden, please.”

Miller stepped forward cautiously. Lee could see that Miller was at odds with himself. Part of him wanted to believe in his friends and family, that Lee was the enemy, that the untrustworthy outsider had been the cause of all this great misfortune. The other part of him knew that this was wrong, that Lee was there to help.

A third part was just scared that Lee was going to snap his neck if he got to close.

But Lee remained as frozen as though he were sculpted of marble. Miller stepped forward slowly, his eyes meeting Lee’s, and in them Lee could see a silent apology. He plucked the gun from Lee’s midsection.

Someone from the crowd yelled, “What about that thing in his pocket?”

And another, “Yeah, take it away from him!”

Miller and Lee both glanced down at his right front pocket and the handheld GPS unit bulging awkwardly from the athletic shorts.

Miller didn’t move for it. He looked at Lee as though asking permission.

Lee shook his head slightly and said, “Don’t.”

The younger man nodded and retreated.

There was a disapproving grumble from the crowd and Bus spun on them. “That is his personal property and we won’t be taking it from him. He’s been detained based on your accusations but we’re not treating him like some common criminal.”

The gathering remained silent this time.

Bus turned to Doc. “See to him, Doc.” Then to Lee, “I am truly sorry, Captain. But the situation being what it is, you may have very limited time to recover. I think you may have to produce what you promised sooner than either of us expected.”

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Re: The Remaining

Post by 223shootersc » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:53 am

thanks for the new chapter :D

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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:33 pm

Laager, there's a quote from you in this next piece (hope you don't mind). Let's see if you can find it...

CHAPTER 4: COMMITTEE

Doc gave both Harper and Miller a grim look and then stepped over to where Lee still stood, mulling things over. “Come on. Have a seat. Let me make sure none of your stitches popped.”

Lee allowed himself to be led back to the cot. Doc stripped the blood-stained plastic sheet off and threw it to the side with a snap of the wrist. Then Lee sat down on the edge of the cot, elbows to his knees, feeling the skin stretching and tugging against the stitches. It was an odd sensation, but not quite painful.

Hunched on his cot, with his chin resting on his folded hands, he looked at the open entrance of the medical trailer. Outside, the world was painted in the slate-gray tones of predawn. Gray like a corpse. Like putrefied meat. And in that dead half-light Lee could see the last of the crowd scattering to tend to their morning duties.

The cot shifted behind him as Doc settled his weight on it and rolled the back of Lee’s shirt up. He pulled at the old bandages. Parts of them had stuck to the wound and stung viciously when he tugged them off.

“Not too bad,” Doc murmured. He continued replacing the dressings.

Lee glanced up and found Harper staring at him. He seemed to be considering Lee in great mental detail. Lee waited for a long moment in silence, but Harper’s eyes never left him.

Lee decided to break the silence. “What do you think, Harper?”

The man’s jaw clenched, tensing up muscles high on his balding temples. “Doesn’t matter what I think.”

“It does,” Lee stated. “It matters to Bus.”

Harper deflected: “I don’t think Bus blames you.”

Lee smiled without humor. “But what do you think?”

“I think you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Lee laughed suddenly and earnestly. “Yeah. You got that one right.”

Everything he’d done for the past four days had seemed to be an uphill battle. Nothing on the outside of his bunker had been what he’d thought it would be. At every turn it seemed that something went wrong and it began to instill in him a deep sense of impending doom, as though no matter what his future decisions were, he would never be able to avert disaster. It seemed Murphy had a hard on for him.

Footsteps crunched on the fine gravel outside. Four faces appeared from around the corner, three that Lee recognized, and one that he did not.

“Lee,” Angela quickened her step, ushering Sam and Abby into the medical trailer. Behind them, some guy Lee didn’t know stood with his hand on the butt of what looked like a small caliber pistol. “What happened? What’s going on?”

Lee didn’t answer her question immediately. He caught the eye of the man that had brought Angela and the kids into the trailer. This one was not like Harper and Miller. This one had the look of distrust and resentment that he’d seen in Kara’s family.

Lee gestured to the woman and two kids. “Really?”

The man with the pistol shrugged coldly and turned out of sight. It was becoming clear to Lee that, like any other group, Camp Ryder had its divisions. Different people formed different alliances. Some groups sided with Lee, others sided with Kara’s family. Lee could only hope that the majority of the camp still wanted to work with him instead of crucify him.

Sam stood at the edge of the cot now, his eyes wandering the room, his jaw set, and his arms crossed. “They think we’re the bad guys. Because of what happened. They think we caused it.”

“What?” Angela’s mouth hung open. “No...”

“Yes,” Lee confirmed. “From what I can tell, some of the people in camp think I’m working for Milo. And I guess they’re just lumping you and the kids in with me.”

Angela looked lost. “Who’s Milo?”

Behind Lee, Doc chuckled bitterly and patted his shoulder. “You’re good, Captain.” The young man with the shaggy hair pushed his scuffed up glasses further onto his nose and began to gather up the discarded dressings along with the plastic sheet soaked in Kara’s blood. Then he tossed the whole blood-stained mess into a 55-gallon drum in the corner. Lee noticed the blackened edges along the mouth of the drum. They regularly burned the contents.

What was left of a young girl was now just a biohazard.

Doc fingered his hair behind his ears and stood in front of the small group: Lee, Angela, and the two lost-looking kids. His mouth was open as though he wanted to say something but was waiting for the right words to land on his tongue. He eventually snapped his mouth shut and turned quickly away from them, mumbling as he left the trailer, “I’ll see about some breakfast.”

Lee turned his attention to Angela and the kids. Sam was sitting dejectedly on the opposite side of the cot, slouched with his hands working between his knees and scowling at the wall. Abby was standing with Angela, her little arm wrapped tightly around her mother’s leg. Her eyes looked distant and indifferent.

Lee reached out and tentatively touched her arm. “How you doin’, sweetie?”

For a moment so brief, Lee thought he might have imagined it, Abby’s eyes became ice-cold and focused points, like icicle tips. Then they melted into that same absent look.

“Okay.” She nodded and looked up at her mother. “What are we doing, mom?”

Angela brushed her daughter’s hair and guided her to the cot in between Lee and Sam. “We’re just going to sit with Captain Harden for a little bit.”

“We’re in trouble.” The words seemed odd coming from Abby’s mouth because her face showed so little concern. “The people here don’t like us.”

Lee cast a glance toward Harper, who avoided the eye contact now. “No, they’re just confused about some stuff. Once they understand the situation, then everything will be okay.”

She shrugged. “Okay.”

Lee leaned back and squeezed Sam’s shoulder. “What about you, buddy?”

Sam turned towards him, angry. “Why don’t we just go?”

“Because they need our help,” Lee stated simply. “And because this is my job.”

“You come here to help them and they treat you like a prisoner. And what about us? What if we don’t want to be here? There must be somewhere else we can go.”

Lee shook his head slowly. “I don’t know if there is anywhere else right now, or how hard it will be to get there. We all nearly died out there. You should remember that.”

Sam huffed and turned back to staring at the wall.

Angela took a seat on the cot with Lee, and Abby slid into her lap, looking tired. Lee could feel Angela next to him, a warm presence. If he had known Angela better, he would have found comfort in her nearness. As it was, he found it awkward. She seemed to place some importance on him that he didn’t understand. Perhaps it was the trauma of the last few days, or the shock of losing her husband. Did she think that she was going to hold onto Lee, just because he rescued them from the roof top? Like he was some knight in shining armor, and she, the damsel in distress?

There’s nothing personal here, he thought. For Christ’s sake, I shot your fucking husband.

She just wasn’t thinking clearly right now. She hadn’t had time to decompress.

Maybe it was Lee’s problem. Maybe he’d been alone so long he didn’t know how to operate any other way. On the other hand, maybe he just understood that a relationship based on trying to survive together for four days wasn’t a relationship at all.

When he turned to take a furtive glance at her, he found Angela looking at him. Her eyes were very sad, and it seemed as though she pitied him. He felt a bit of relief along with the indignation at being pitied. She knows there’s no relationship. She just thinks she can help me. She’s that type of person—always looking for someone to help.

“You’re not bothered by any of this?” she asked him.

Lee met her gaze. “What makes you think that I’m not?”

“You never seem bothered,” She straightened out Abby’s dirty shirt as the younger girl began falling asleep in her mother’s arms. “Sure, you get a little intense every now and then. But it’s like it all just doesn’t matter to you. Like you know something we don’t know.”

Lee smiled ruefully. “No. I’m finding out I know very little.”

“Then what? Are you not scared?”

“No,” Lee leaned back a bit to take the stress off his stitches. “That’s not it, I assure you.”

“Hm.” She looked thoughtful. “I thought you were too well-trained to get scared.”

He had to chuckle. “You know, they did a study one time. They strapped heart-monitors to two Special Forces soldiers about to make a combat jump. One soldier was brand new, fresh out of training. The other soldier was a six-year veteran. So, as they’re approaching the drop point, the younger soldier is pacing back and forth, checking and re-checking his gear. He’s nervous. He can’t stand still. All the while, the veteran is just sitting there with his eyes closed like he’s sleeping. Like nothing bothered him.

“After the mission, they found that there was virtually no difference in the heart rates between the veteran and the rookie. They were both scared. The only difference was that the veteran was used to being scared, so it didn’t show as much.”
Lee looked at her again. “So, yes. I get scared, whether it shows or not.”

The six people sat in a tense but thoughtful silence. Harper and Miller guiltily watched the four outsiders as they sat quietly and contemplated their strange situation. Eventually Doc returned with four small bowls of oatmeal. He explained with a shy smile, “It’s all that was left in the pot.”

Due to sparing supplies, whoever did the cooking had mixed more water and less oatmeal, creating a thin gruel with a little salt to give it some flavor. Despite the odd taste, the group still ate hungrily. Only after Lee finished his small bowl did he realize how hungry he was and remembered losing last night’s dinner during the attack.

Rice and beans. Thin oatmeal.

No meat to speak of.

These people are starving, Lee thought.

Supplies were low and nearly unattainable with Milo’s gang running amok outside the gates. The hordes of infected kept hunting from being practical. Lee thought about the possibility of trapping, but in order to feed the entire community, snares and traps would have to be set for something large, like a deer or wild boar. This was not impossible, but trapped animals create a lot of noise and Lee thought that even if a trap was sprung successfully, the infected would get to the animal first and rip it to pieces. Even if they left anything behind, it would be tainted.

His thoughts wandered from hunting and trapping to water. The community seemed to have enough water to get by. Lee wondered about a stream in the area, or possibly a large rain cistern, either pre-existing or built by the community. Any streams in the area were likely contaminated with industrial pollutants, but the heavy summer rains would come soon, riding the tails of whatever hurricanes were spinning up the coastline and rolling inland to central North Carolina. That would probably wash most of the pollutants away and make the streams slightly more potable, at least after a good boiling.

In the back of Lee’s mind he knew he was setting himself to thinking of these things. The business of survival kept the mind occupied while the fear of failure swam like unseen sharks below a rickety lifeboat. Lee was determined to just keep rowing. It was impossible to be lost at sea forever. Eventually you had to make landfall.

But the fear escorted him wherever he went.

It waited for him to give up and give in, and then it would consume him completely.

An hour passed. The light outside the trailer went from that dull, slate-gray to the bright and lively glow of the morning sun. Lee noted that the temperature was staying fairly mild for late July, and he guessed it would be a mid-eighties day.

Harper and Miller found themselves some chairs and exchanged quiet small talk. Angela and Abby curled up on another cot. Abby fell asleep quickly, but Angela lay with her eyes open, staring vacantly at nothing. Sam got up and paced irritably.

People passed by and looked in with furtive glances. Lee watched them from the edge of his cot and saw a range of emotions. Some were angry. Most were curious. All were suspicious. When they walked by alone, they quickly looked away. When they walked by in pairs, they whispered amongst themselves. In groups they stared brazenly and spoke loudly.

“Is he a spy?”

“He killed Kara.”

“He let the infected in.”

“Why would he do that?”

“He promised us supplies.”

“That’s bullshit.”

Lee began to notice the trickle of passersby thickening, everyone going in the same direction: toward the square. The steady bustle of people conducting their everyday business began to meld and grow into the semi-excited rumble of a crowd and Lee could not shake the image of an old western town where all the ladies in their pretty dresses showed up to watch a guilty man hang.

It wasn’t long before Bus appeared.

He nodded to Harper and Miller, who both stood up languidly and stretched. Then he walked to Lee and stood before him with his hands clasped neutrally in front of him. He looked at Angela and her daughter, and then Sam, who now looked defiantly back at him. Then his gaze found Lee again.

“You need to understand something,” He said. “I don’t run the show around here. These people, they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. But they like to think that they do. So when the shit hits the fan, they all look to me to tell them what to do. I’m a security blanket. They think, If all else fails, Bus will know what to do.”

He looked bitter. “But I don’t control them. And right now there are fifty people outside that are making up their mind about you. Kara’s family is convinced that you’re with Milo and you sabotaged our fence—”

“That’s ridiculous!” Angela hissed.

Bus looked at her. “I know it is. I’m not saying that’s what I believe, I’m saying that’s what is being said. A lot of people are buying it because...well, it’s easy to blame the new people. I just wanted to let you know what the sentiment was like out there.”

“Is this a trial?” Lee said, quietly.

Bus shook his head. “Just a meeting. Not everybody has had a chance to speak with you. Most of the people in camp are forming their opinions from word-of-mouth. I figured having you stand up in front of everyone would be best, that way they could form their own opinions.”

Lee nodded. “And what should I do?”

“Answer their questions. Hopefully they believe you.”

“No one’s going to believe me, Bus.” Lee lowered his voice. “Not unless someone inside Camp Ryder sides with me.”

“Captain, some of the people already believe you. Most of them want to believe you. You give them something to hope for.” Bus scratched his neck. “But I can’t take sides right now.”

“Why not?” Sam suddenly appeared by Lee’s side. “You said you believe us!”

“It’s complicated,” Bus said flatly. “This place isn’t as unified as it may seem. There are people here that don’t agree with how I’m doing things, and they will use my siding with you as a sign of disloyalty and turn the camp against me.” He sighed. “I don’t like playing political games. I’ve never been good at them. But I also can’t just stand by and watch someone destroy us from the inside. I’m sorry, but I have to stay neutral.”

“Bus,” Lee stood up from his cot. “Just promise me that we can leave unharmed, if it comes to that.”

Bus thought for a little longer than Lee was comfortable with. He eventually nodded his head, but despite the gesture, Lee didn’t think it was a promise that Bus was going to be able to keep.

***Chapter 4 continued shortly...***

dantheremaining
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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Tue May 01, 2012 10:29 pm

***This is the last of Chapter 4***

The people gathered in moody silence. They stared with stony faces as Lee approached, flanked by Harper and Miller and led by Bus. Behind them, Angela, Abby, and Sam followed with Doc and Jenny.

Lee scanned the crowd and found Kara’s father and brother conspicuously absent.

Standing before them, Lee felt silly in the hand-me-down garb. It was difficult enough to convince people of his mission when he was wearing his full battle rattle, let alone when he was clad in only a smiley-face t-shirt and some athletic shorts. It did not lend to his credibility.

Bus stood between Lee and the people of Camp Ryder and shifted his weight to one leg. “Alright, folks. Regardless of what you believe, let’s try to keep this orderly and decent. This is Captain Lee Harden, and the woman there is Angela and the two kids are Abby and Sam, if you haven’t met them already. I know there’s been a lot said. Rumors tend to fly pretty quickly around here, but we need to be reasonable. This man has offered us something, and we need to figure out whether we’re going to trust him and accept it, or whether we want him to leave our camp.”

Bus took a moment to moisten his lips and scratch his beard. “Now that everyone knows what we’re doing here, ya’ll can ask what you need to ask, but let’s do it one at a time.”

Almost immediately a hand shot up and Lee thought Oh boy...here we go.

“Yeah,” Bus pointed to the raised hand. “Go ahead, Keith.”

Keith was an older man, possibly in his mid-sixties, with a thin head of gray hair, a craggy face, and thin features. He wore a pair of canvas overalls that looked like they’d seen better days even before the FURY pandemic.

Acknowledged, Keith lowered his hand and stuck it in the pocket of his overalls. He gave Lee a scrutinizing stare, up and down, as though he was learning everything he needed to know about Lee simply by his body language.

“I guess I’ll go ahead and say it, since most of us are thinking it.” Keith said. “You don’t strike me as some secret government super-soldier sent to save us all. You look...pretty normal. S’pose what I’m getting at here is, if you’re such hot shit, where’s your guns? Where’s your uniform? Where’s all these supplies you’re supposed to have?”

There was a murmur of assent from the crowd.

Everyone wanted an answer to that one.

“That’s a fair question,” Lee said, trying to take it in stride. “I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m no super-soldier, but I am good at what I do. If you want to know where my equipment is, I will tell you. It’s in a bunker twenty feet below the ashes of my house, which Milo burned to the ground.” He quickly added, “I have access to more supplies, I just…”

The crowd grumbled disapprovingly.

A new speaker stepped forward, this one a woman with pale skin and dark black hair pulled back into a ponytail. “But you haven’t given us any proof. Where are these supplies you keep talking about?”

“I’ve been here for a day,” Lee said, trying not to show irritation. “I haven’t exactly had a chance to make the trip just yet, but when I do...”

“Why didn’t you just take them with you?” It was a male voice. “Why didn’t you bring your supplies here?”

Lee began to feel uncomfortable. He didn’t like being put on the spot, and despite what Bus said, it didn’t seem like many people believed him. “Part of my job is to help survivors. Angela and her daughter were trapped. When I set out to help them, I didn’t bring all of the equipment with me because it would have weighed me down. When I returned home, I found my house burned to the ground. I couldn’t go get a refill on supplies because I needed to find a safe place for them first.”

Angela spoke up this time, hesitantly. “It’s true. Abby and me, we were trapped on the roof of our house. Captain Harden saved us, but when he was doing that, some men took his truck and they found his house. We hiked back, but Captain Harden’s house had been burned to the ground.” She paused for a moment and nodded at Lee. “I didn’t believe it at first either. But Captain Harden knows what he’s doing. If you’d seen him fight, you’d believe him too.”

“How do we know you’re not with Milo?” someone shouted.

The crowd got louder, everyone clamoring together.

“What if you’re spies?”

“Is this all just a trick?”

Lee took a deep breath while Bus cast an icy stare out into the crowd but remained silent. Eventually the gathering quieted, and another person said, “Did you sabotage our fence?” This time the question was met with more of a murmur than a shout.

“No.” Lee said simply, because he knew any other, more complicated answer would be seen as dodging the question.

“Can you prove you’re not with Milo?”

Lee was about to answer when Miller stepped forward. “Can I say something?”

Bus nodded and the people looked at Miller expectantly.

Miller turned to address them. “I don’t know where this rumor started about the captain being with Milo. I don’t know whether the captain has all the things he says he has. But I was there when he and Angela and those two little kids were runnin’ from Milo. I know I saw Milo’s guys tryin’ their damnedest to shoot the captain. I know I saw the captain pull himself through rusty nails just to get away. So if you were to ask me whether he’s with Milo or not, I would hafta say no.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone seemed to mull this over.

Lee watched the faces as they exchanged looks and murmured amongst themselves.

“I guess what everyone’s concerned with,” a new voice said. “Is whether we can trust this so-called captain to follow through with what he has promised.”

The new speaker was a tall man, this one the polar opposite of Keith, who looked like he’d been blue-collar all his life. This was a business man, someone that fancied himself a politician. He had the bearing of someone that came from money, and the soft, pleasant face of someone that has seen less of the hard times than those around him.

Lee immediately disliked him.

The speaker stepped out and then turned so that the crowd was to his left and Lee was to his right. His stance told Lee this was practiced stage-presence. A glance over to Bus confirmed that the big man also did not buy into the speaker’s bullshit. However, to Lee’s dismay, the crowd seemed to find him enchanting.

A manipulator.

A politician.

Perhaps this was the person Bus had suggested was attempting to wrest control of the camp from him. Lee had to agree with Bus’s assessment that the camp would not be in good hands if that were to happen.

To Lee, the man said, “You do recall your promise? In exchange for us taking you and your group in and providing you with what we could, you claimed to be able to produce food, water, weapons, and medical supplies.” The man smiled disarmingly. “I know that Bus had the best of intentions when he let you into our camp. However, I think I speak for everyone here when I say that, in light of the security breach, we’re going to need something more than just your word if you want to continue to stay here.”

There was a chorus of “yeah”, “that’s right”, and “you tell ‘em!”

“Excuse me! Hold on!” Doc flapped his arms. “No. No. If you’re trying to say that Captain Harden should leave to get supplies, that is out of the question for at least another week. The man has muscle damage and is probably in a lot of pain—in fact, I’m surprised he’s holding it together as we speak. Plus, there’s still the chance for gangrene to set in and I need to monitor…”

“I can leave tomorrow,” Lee said.

Doc looked at him. “No you can’t. You won’t be nearly healed enough to…”

Lee crossed his arms. “I fought today. I can fight tomorrow. If that’s what it takes to get this done, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Even the politician’s mouth closed as he processed this. No one had expected him to answer up so readily. The truth was, Lee despised the idea. The cuts on his back still burned and stung with every movement. Lee had also hoped to enjoy the relative safety of Camp Ryder for longer than a day before being thrust back out into the dangerous wilderness that America had become. There was safety in numbers here, and there was water. The thought of leaving that made Lee’s stomach flip-flop, the same as it flip-flopped when he hadn’t received that check-in from Colonel Reid so many long days ago.

No amount of training or experience made death any less frightening.

You just learned to work around it.

So he found himself once again stuffing that feeling down. Forcing himself to do the job that needed to be done, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how dangerous. That was Lee’s lot in life, and while sometimes it nearly overwhelmed him, he would always make his peace with it. It was built into his DNA just as much as the color of his eyes or the shape of his face.

Bus spoke up. “You can’t go out alone. Someone will have to go with you.”

The politician cleared his voice. “I’m sorry if I am being too blunt, but I don’t think anyone here trusts the captain enough to accompany him when we don’t even know where his loyalties lie. We’ve just lost one of our own under suspicious circumstances, and while we can’t prove Mr. Harden had anything to do with it, we can’t disprove it either.”

A woman in the front of the crowd put her hands on her hips. “If I remember correctly, Jerry, Captain Harden was the one that tried to help Kara, not you. I also recall that we were all facing the opposite direction until Captain Harden had the brains to look behind us. Seems like more people would have been hurt if he hadn’t been there. Frankly I think we should thank him.”

Jerry The Politician knew not to argue a good point, so he raised his hands in mock-defeat and tried a different tactic. “Marie, if you trust him so much, perhaps you should volunteer to go with him.”

Marie’s eyes became sharp daggers. “I have responsibilities here, Jerry. Unlike yourself.”

Jerry ignored the jab and turned to the crowd with a smile. “Does anyone else trust the captain so much that they would like to accompany him on this trip? Anyone?”

Under the ear-ringing silence, Lee regarded Bus who stood like an angered god with his brawny arms crossed over his chest and a deep redness taking over his olive complexion. It was obvious there was no love lost between Bus and Jerry.

The silence stretched on.

“I’m goin’ with him.”

Lee was surprised to find Harper stepping forward, staring at Jerry with much the same look as Bus. Harper was loyal to Bus, and an enemy of your friend is your enemy too. Lee could tell that Harper volunteered less because he believed in Lee and more out of spite towards Jerry.

Whatever the reason, Lee appreciated it.

It didn’t take long for Miller to follow. “I’m going too.”

Jerry looked first shocked, and then sour.

Lee nodded at Harper and Miller and felt gratitude, regardless of their motives.

Bus smiled fiercely at Jerry. “I guess it’s settled then. Harper and Miller will accompany Captain Harden. They will leave tomorrow.”

Manliest
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Re: The Remaining

Post by Manliest » Wed May 02, 2012 8:32 am

You son of a....

Now I have to get that damn Kindle app on my tablet. Within the next ten minutes or so... :lol:

223shootersc
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Re: The Remaining

Post by 223shootersc » Wed May 02, 2012 9:40 am

another good chapter, thanks

momengineer
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Re: The Remaining

Post by momengineer » Wed May 02, 2012 10:16 am

so glad this is finally out on kindle!! (Been waiting, and waiting and waiting...obivously patience is not my strong suit!) Can't wait to get home tonight to read it!

KeithCB
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Re: The Remaining

Post by KeithCB » Thu May 03, 2012 4:25 am

Hey Dan, congrats on hitting the top ten in horror! Keep going man!

dantheremaining
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Re: The Remaining

Post by dantheremaining » Thu May 03, 2012 5:54 pm

Thanks, Keith! Hopin' everybody enjoys it.

Manliest
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Posts: 513
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Favorite Zombie Movies: Zombieland.

Re: The Remaining

Post by Manliest » Fri May 04, 2012 6:46 pm

Finally finished book 2. Hurry up with book 3! :D

ShieldWolf
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Re: The Remaining

Post by ShieldWolf » Wed May 09, 2012 11:49 am

Way to go Dan...great story and great writing...waiting for book 3 too.

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