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Revenant

Introduction

Nobody knows the exact time or day. Even the year it happened has been lost and forgotten—as time does when it slips by unnoticed—but the end of the world came and went, leaving in its wake a path of death and destruction.

The population grew to an alarming rate, and as a consequence, the human populace forced the world into rapid global warming; compelling the planet to turn on itself. Weather and natural disasters killed off the human race faster than they could get rid each other. Coastlines grew, while islands disappeared. Earthquakes and tsunami’s took out entire countries, leaving extreme temperature’s to take care of the weak and frail; starvation, dehydration and heat exhaustion were major players for team earth.

The apocalypse that had been warned and foretold about for centuries was upon us, and millions perished under the force of rock, water and flame. Tens of thousands fled major cities seeking safety upon higher ground, while others went to smaller, underpopulated towns and untouched lands. Years of disaster passed leaving the planet’s surface and the life on it forever changed. Buildings were ransacked and towns were destroyed and highways and streets were littered with abandoned vehicles. God and country had been replaced with fear and self-preservation; it was Martial Law, and then every man for himself.

Yet, this was only the beginning of Earths demise, with a forecast a barometer couldn’t predict. The worst had yet to come, and it was then—during the quiet—that the eye of the storm finally showed its face.

The plague didn’t spread like the old Hollywood movie scenes. There were no neat epidemic maps or calculations, and there was no Army, Navy or Air Force to guide us with direction and show us the way. The infection didn’t spread like rolling waves or wildfire—there weren’t enough of us left for that—but the infection was strong, and in the first days it spread quickly and with it taking thousands of the remaining few.

We have only ourselves to blame. When you bargain with the devil, he always collects his debt.

Life on our planet was dying, we wanted to survive, and they wanted to live, so when the Vampires offered a solution to both of our problems, we readily and greedily signed on the dotted line, neither party fully aware of the oversight they were making.

A world without humans meant a world without blood. Blood became the driving force that both needed to exist, so while they created “I-M”, we formed the receiving lines. It wasn’t mandatory; it was optional, but thousands of us lined up anyway.

Ageless immortality had been packaged neatly in a little vial. It kept the humans human and the Vampires fed. The serum made us stronger, healthier and closely immortal without changing the person into one of them. For some it seemed a small price to pay to ensure the survival of the human race and in addition a regular blood donation was exchanged indefinitely, giving the opportunity for both species to live to see another day.

For the humans it gave us an infinite amount of time to rebuild and learn from our mistakes; and with enhanced health, strength and durability to survive mother nature; it meant we were less subjective to the power and the force of her will. We would no longer die because of human frailty and disease. Sickness would no longer affect those who had taken the shot and our wounds would more easily heal.

The vampires gain was that of the sun, and with the creation of “I-M”, they were no longer left to live in the shadows. Our blood was the key to their survival so when our population dwindled, so did their food supply. The inoculation was an antidote for death, it meant they would never starve and we wouldn’t perish.

It wasn’t until it was too late that we both understood what that would mean and that we had made a terrible mistake.

Everything dies, and when it does it stays dead—or so we thought.

Chapter One

There’s place and means for every man alive.” – William Shakespeare

Running is an essential part of living these days. I run because I like it and I run to stay alive. Being able to out run a carcass is literally a do or die kind of thing and a great motivator for daily exercise.

It was a crisp morning here in Thompson Falls, the air was cool enough I could see my breath with each exhale yet warm enough to be without a jacket. The small compound I call my home was still mostly asleep as I made a lap around the perimeter, keeping close to the steel fencing and guarded walls while I jogged. The uneven beaten down path of dirt and grass was a familiar comfort as I tried to ignore the world around me.

In the distance, just beyond the perimeter, I could hear the gnarling and shuffle of a straggler as it made its way closer. Only for a moment the desperate cries of hunger escaped the deads lips before being cut off by the click, pull and a bang. The surrounding wilderness was quiet for a moment; my heavy breath a loud echo in the stillness of the early light, but soon the forest was happily chatting again, proving that even the creatures of this world were used to this new life.

Thompson Falls is a small town near the border of what used to be the state of Montana. The area was colonized specifically because of its location and its uncontaminated condition, which was mostly unheard of it was so rare. Thompson Falls is located next to a brimming river and vast open lands, and because of its closeness to the mountains and the abundant life that live in them. It is perfect and ideal for hunting, fishing and growing crops. It’s also a great location because it puts us far enough away from the bigger, infected area’s but not so far that we could not to travel for supplies.

The settlement itself is a decent size as far as most colonies go, having just over six hundred people living here it isn’t one of the biggest assemblies but still an impressive size compared to most. It is larger and stronger than some of the other outposts and provides protection that living outside the gates on your own lacks.

My mother Olivia and I first came to live here when I was twelve. When Commander Hendricks and his team found us we had been on the run for several weeks after our group had been invaded by the dead. We lost my father and uncle to the kooks that day, and several more before we eventually made it out alive. The few of us that survived and then stayed together have been close ever since, being hunted and having to watch as your family and friends become something’s meal has a way of binding the ties between you.

The commander was still putting the colony together when he found us and brought us to the Falls. At the time the small town had only around a hundred people living in it. It wasn’t long after our arrival though that my mother became something of a rock star and was quickly in high demand. Commander Hendricks was more than just the leader, he was also the resident doctor and until the point of our arrival he had been training people to help him practice medicine. Mom was being trained as a doctor when the plague first became known, and then after was forced to take a crash course as a field medic; not professionally speaking of course, she just had to start applying her abilities and what she knew about medicine to perform outside her scope of practice to save lives.

Unfortunately it was quickly discovered that there was nothing to be done once you were bitten or infected, and that the only cure for this particular disease was a bullet to the brain or a separation between head and chest. I was particularly proficient at the former but found that I lacked the required upper body strength to be any good at the latter – which really didn’t bother me all that much, getting up close and personal with any zombie was something that everyone strived to avoid.

Regardless, there were always other medical needs and for that the Hippocratic staff were always in high demand. When I was old enough to look over a gurney and into a person’s mouth my mother taught me basic care and first aid so I could help and work in the care center, but the job wasn’t for me and after two years I threw in the towel. I didn’t have it in me to stitch a person back together or hold a puke bucket for someone else to get sick in. I learned a lot over those two years, but I couldn’t imagine myself taking care of people—in that particular setting—for the rest of my life. I knew she was disappointed; so was the Commander, but neither of them said too much, they both knew what I really wanted to do. I guess I was more comfortable with the dead and killing them, rather than trying to save someone from it. Eventually, and as the town grew, more doctors and nurses came and my guilt over the disappointment became less and less.

As I rounded the last corner of my course the O Motel came into view and with it the first signs of life; my mother’s room light was on. When we came to Thompson Falls the O Motel had just been fixed and was the temporary housing that people were staying in until something more permanent was available, but we ended up liking it so we made it our home.

The town itself was adopted and taken over and so were most of the jobs and buildings in it, so as time passed and with our desire to stay and become a part of the growing community, we eventually began running the Motel and have been ever since.

Once I decided I would not work in the care center, I began ‘slingin hash’ (as Hendricks called it) here in the kitchen and serving drinks to the town’s people when I wasn’t on rotation. The setup was like that of an old bar and grill and became popular since it was, at the time, the only place offering or serving anything like an old restaurant. We have a menu with daily specials, and close the kitchen after dinner, but we offer a place to relax with food and drink, and a bed to sleep on if you need it.

The world is quite different from how it used to be, one thing we don’t miss is the money. Currency, for the most part, is null and void. We don’t get pay checks, workman’s comp or insurance—whatever that is—and we don’t have banks, savings accounts or credit cards; we all just work in kind. We exchange in trade or barter; we do what we can to help each other out and provide a service in exchange for services provided.

The life we live now is beyond monetary gain or what we possess; being alive is the most valuable of all things and everything else is less than secondary. The items that used to be considered important or high end have very little meaning in this new world—it all looks the same after it’s been stained with blood, guts and rotting flesh—we use and take what we need and have no desire to compete with each other.

When I’m not working at the O Motel I go out with the rest of the vanguard to collect supplies and gather essentials we can’t make or produce for ourselves. Most of the cities that were still standing after the natural disasters stopped beating us down later became infected with the dead. They are crawling with grave mutants and the remains of which they refused to be, but are also loaded with product, food and supplies that will last us and generations for years.

There are thousands of cities and towns across what is left of the United States, Canada and the world, full of leftover commodities and it is our job to retrieve these items while disposing and clearing the zombied streets. Every time someone leaves the protective guard of the gates they are risking their life—and their death—but there are things left within the walls of old cities worth going after.

Our raids are rotated in shifts but at any given time there are several teams out in the morgue—the land outside the gates where the dead roam—hunting searching and rescuing, so when I’m not out there, I work here at the O and feed the locals, but, either way, I’m in the business of service.

As I made my way in through the front door of the O and into the kitchen I could smell the fresh brew of the morning’s first pot.

“Coffee’s ready.” My mother told me as she passed through the double swinging doors from the kitchen.

“Thanks.” I said to her heading to the sink, first, grabbing a glass and filling it with water before pouring a cup of the hot stuff. “If you give me a few minutes to clean up I can make you something to eat before you go.” I told her.

“Thanks, but you don’t need to do that. I want to be early at the clinic today and I’m already running late.” She said to me as she dumped the rest of her coffee into her go cup.

“So, you’re running late for being early?” I cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Ha. Ha. Abel. Very funny.” She said. “Will you be here when I get back later?”

“Should be, we’re still waiting for Rick’s team to come in.”

“How long have they been overdue?” She asked me trying to keep her voice even.

“Two days, but it’s not a big deal so please don’t worry about it.”

“Uh huh.” She said as she came over to give me a hug.

Olivia was just shorter than me by only an inch or two, putting her at around five-five and other than our smiles we look nothing alike. Shoulder length and wavy ‘dish water’ blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin are a complete contrast to my long and stark-straight dark brown hair, green eyes and olive colored skin. Apparently I’m my father’s daughter when it comes to appearances.

“Love you mom.” I told her as she moved toward the door.

“I love you too.” She said back to me with a smile.

We keep in contact with the other colonies and power the town with the energy from old solar, wind and water power plants that were left over from PEI, the Pure Energy Initiative that was enacted to combat global warming. Add that with our own minor production and we have close to a functioning civilization. It was one of those things Hollywood did wrong in the old movies, we didn’t lose all of our technology or electricity, and we still had running water—usually.

We’re able to keep in contact with the town when we are out on assignment using Satellite phones, CB’s and radio waves, provided we have charged batteries and aren’t too far away from a signal. I don’t really understand all the mechanics behind our ability to talk over long distances, or how it is we still have utilities most of the time, but I’m thankful for it. That’s not to say it doesn’t fail us fairly often because it does and it isn’t an uncommon thing to lose contact with someone outside of the gates for no other reason than a battery went dead or a wire got crossed, but it still makes us anxious and for my mom in particular its cause for alarm. She treats a lot of injuries and sees and hears things that make it hard for her when I’m out in the morgue and little things like a simple miscommunication make my life all that much harder.

After showering and getting cleaned up I passed the rest of the morning prepping for the lunch rush. Breakfast is cooked to order, but lunch needs to be prepared for. There are a few regulars that come in and help out in both the restaurant and the bar, and several part-timers that like to come in for the latest gossip or some other reason every once in a while. Either way I hardly ever find myself over worked or asking for help to run the place.

The vanguard hang out here a lot when they aren’t out on rotation and usually stop in for a drink before heading home when they get back, so the O usually gets the best beer, booze and frozen goods that were found (if there were any) when they return.

“Hey GG.” I smiled at the little woman as she approached the serving counter a few hours later. “I didn’t know you were coming in today.”

“Sure I am, it’s Friday honey, this is when I make all my big tips.” She said with a wink.

GG is a tiny thing, only about five feet tall and a buck twenty soaking wet. She is in her seventies but you wouldn’t know it, she’s a spit fire of a lady and whatever GG says, goes.

“What’s on the menu today?” She asked coming into the kitchen and wrapping an apron around her waist.

“Fish and chips.” I told her. “Grady’s out back cleaning up the rest of his catch and Charlies cutting potatoes.”

“And you’re making a mess with the batter.” She said shaking her head at me. “Go clean yourself up and get out in the front.” She ordered. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you kid.”

This was her way of helping out; taking my place and doing my work as a way for her to ‘earn her keep’ as she had once said. The O was one of a handful of places in town she could work at and it was only because it gave her purpose and pride that I allow her to do anything at all. GG being alive and breathing and one-hundred percent human in this day and age were a blessing she didn’t need to earn, but like I said—what GG says, goes.

“Ok GG.” I smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before heading over to the sink.

“I see you got in trouble again Abel.” Charlie teased as she continued to cut up a potato.

“Yeah, I wasn’t doing it right.”

“You never do,” She laughed, and then looked up at me, “kid.” Rolling my eyes at her I turned away and went to work in the front of the house—just as I was told—while ignoring Charlies kid remark. I stacked plates and rolled silverware and made sure everything was clean and ready for when the lunch crowd showed up.

GG didn’t talk about the zombies much, and she didn’t use our terms when she did. If she ever spoke about them at all she referred to them as the dead and nothing more. I think it was hard for her knowing what was going on outside the safety of the walls and she tried to forget about it by not talking about it in casual conversation like everyone else did.

Kooks, grave mutants, flesh monsters or any other term we could come up with applied to the original walking dead. They were the people that received the I-M injection from the Vampires that would allow them to live close to forever, but then accidentally died from heart failure or brain injury or something else that couldn’t be fixed with rapid healing. After they died, they came back as a walking, biting, infection spreading animated corpse.

Kids, evo’s, ankle-biters, etc. were what we called their children. Kook spawn were smarter than their predecessors, they were stronger, faster and liked to hunt in groups. Essentially, they were the leftovers that got away. They are moving and mutilated body chunks on a mission to find blood and flesh. The kids were turned by the originals and somehow were able to get away but were infected. Sometimes with just one bite, other times by not being completely consumed. These zombies are more intelligent through some sort of mutant evolution, and prove to be the more dangerous of the two—even if they are uglier and sometimes have fewer parts to them—the kids parents are slow, dumb and weak in comparison.

GG wouldn’t know the difference, she’s never seen a kid and never will, it was only several years ago we realized ourselves that the kooks had changed into something else. When we finally realized it most of the people that stay in town had never seen one and wouldn’t know what to look for as far as differences. Unless you spend a lot of time hunting zombies, you don’t pay too close attention to what you are shooting.

Plus, GG wouldn’t use our terms to insult me, Charlies just an ass like that.

“Abby!” Hendricks yelled as the door chimed with his entrance.

“Here!” I called back to him.

Commander Lane Hendricks, MD; Master of all trades was the big guy around town. He started up this colony many years ago and has been the man running it and in charge ever since. He’s the go to guy for anything important, medical or anything directly related to the security of Thompson Falls, he’s also the man that saved mine and my mother’s lives.

“Hey peanut.” He said as he sat at the counter across from me. “You have any of that lunch I’ve been hearing about all afternoon?”

“Grady’s fresh catch of the day?” I teased. “I sure do.”

“I’ll take two.”

“Coming right up.” I told him as I turned to give GG the order. “Two fish n’ chips please!” I hollered through the order window.

“You don’t have to yell, I’m standing right here.” She said surprising me as she dropped the fillets in the fryer.

“Sorry GG! I didn’t see you.”

“Well honey, we’re the only five of us in here, I could have heard the good Doctors order from way in the back.” She continued to chide me as she put down the sliced potatoes, “Even if you didn’t see me, I’m not deaf.”

I apologized again while stifling a laugh and turning back around to face Hendricks, he too was smiling as he greeted his mother, “Now ma, you be nice to Abby or she’ll fire you.” He said with a wink.

“She could sure try.” She laughed to herself, “but I’d just keep coming back.”

“Oh I know.” I said as I poured him a cup of coffee. I knew from firsthand experience she’d keep coming back; I’d already tried that once.

“Tsk-tsk.” She murmured from the kitchen as she kept with her work.

“Abel, I need a favor,” Hendricks said after taking a sip from his mug “and, I need you to keep it quiet.” He finished saying, peeking my interest.

“Sure, what can I do for you?” I asked him eagerly. I’d been off rotation for a couple of weeks now and I was itching to do anything that didn’t involve plates and beer.

“I need you to cover for me with your mother. I have to run over to outpost six and get rid of some neckers that haven’t heard we don’t work with their kind here.” Neckers is a slang term for the Vampires that some of the guys use, the Commander in particular has a strong dislike for them.

“I’m sure their just passing through.” I told him.

“This is the second time they’ve come this way, the guys at the post say they insist on aiding.” He told me with a sneer.

Commander Hendricks had no use for vampires, and that was putting it mildly. When he first put this outpost together he made sure that everyone knew that it was an all human camp, no blood drinkers allowed. When he traveled and made contact and allies with other communities, he made it clear he would deal with them but not their vampire counterparts. Most of the colonies were fine with this exception, but for a few it was a deal breaker. The protection of vampires was readily sought after in most communities. I couldn’t blame them, they were stronger and faster and we all had to look out for ourselves and the ones we love anyway we can. If it wasn’t for Commander Hendricks bringing us to the Falls, I’m sure we would have done the same thing.

“Their people too Lane.” GG chided him from behind the wall, “their probably tired and hungry.”

“They’re not people ma.” He said through clenched teeth. “And they aren’t welcome here. I will not have a bunch vamps sucking the life out of my people for protection we don’t need. We can take care of ourselves, and they can move on.”

GG came out of the kitchen and stood in the doorway while she waited for her son to finish speaking. She gave him a look only a mother could and told him, “You didn’t always feel that way. It’s best you don’t forget that,” and without another word she turned around and went back to work.

I wasn’t surprised by their exchange, GG and Hendricks usually butted heads about this subject and most others for that matter, but it was enough to remind me not to get on her bad side. She may be in her seventies, but I was positive her wit alone would take me down without a fight.

No vamps, that was the one rule and because of this the outposts were constantly running off tourist vamps; they were the ones without any real purpose who were just looking for a warm meal in the form of a positive or negative blood type. It was a rarity we had any come this way that wanted to stay and help, most were just passing through.

Regardless, it didn’t matter if they were tourist vamps or members of the VIG (Vampire Increment Guard), the Commander blamed all vampires for our current situation, stating that it was their fault we had to protect ourselves from the dead and if it wasn’t for the I-M shot we wouldn’t be living this way. I don’t know if I agree with him completely after all it was our human need and want to survive that is half to blame and neither party could have known the outcome of the choices they were making.

Even so, this was his place and his rules, or the rule as it were, and we all followed it. He was reasonable and listened in every other way and was open to suggestions, often making the people of the town take the lead on decisions just as long as they didn’t hurt anyone else.

“Abby, please.” He asked me again after a few minutes and a refill in his mug.

“Well, alright.” I agreed to his request, “what would you have me do? I can be ready to go in five minutes.” I told him guessing he wanted me to ride along with him.

“No, no.” He cut me off, “I need you to cover for me with your mom remember?” He said with a smile, “I can handle the neckers by myself.”

“You mean actually cover with my mom? Why would she care?” I asked him skeptically, getting concerned that he wasn’t telling me the whole truth. There’s no reason he would need to hide what he is doing from her, this is our life and it was his job. She understood that, hell she was part of it.

“We are supposed to have lunch today.” He explained after seeing the look on my face. “And after that, we were scheduled to do a minor surgery. I won’t be able to make either since I’m going to the outpost; you’re my buffer.”

“Why wouldn’t you just tell her? I’m sure she would have understood.” I said as I crossed my arms over my chest.

“She was busy; I couldn’t bother her when I got the call.” He said.

I still wasn’t convinced but GG had just put the orders up in the window so I took the time to distract myself by putting them in to-go containers rather than analyzing his motives.

“Alright, well, take your lunch,” I told him handing over the bag. “I’ll put down more fish to go over there with.”

He smiled at me as he stood, then kissed the top of my head before putting his cap back on.

“Abby, what do you think these are for?” He said with a wink. “You know I don’t like fish.”

  • * *

“How was lunch with your mom?” Charlie asked when I came back later that afternoon.

“Remind me not to do any favors for Hendricks anymore.” I told her deadpan, then grabbed a stack of dirty dishes and stomped off to the back where I vigorously washed them.

Lying by omission was still lying, and I wasn’t too impressed with the good Doctor or his favor this afternoon. He left out the part that the ‘minor surgery’ they would be doing together was a cesarean section, in addition to the fact that it was my mother’s first one solo. Not only did she freak out about the whole thing but as punishment for my part she made me scrub in and assist the other nurses. So, needless to say I am not too happy with Doctor Hendricks.

On the plus side, and after my initial shock and reluctance to even be in the room, we delivered a healthy baby boy and have added another member to our growing community. On the down side, we added another member to our community. It makes the job all that more important and worth doing but also adds the tiniest bit more pressure and about seven and a half more pounds of stress.

The dinner rush had come and gone by the time I was able to sit again and take a break. GG went home after the lunch rush so Grady took over in the kitchen while Charlie and I did the serving. Dinner isn’t as busy as lunch, most people like to spend the evening and their dinner meal with their family, but we still feed a few and sometimes those families as well.

Friday’s are busy nights for the bar so we usually open up the patio and pull back the sliding walls where the pool tables and extra chairs and tables are. Most people come in to blow off steam from the work week and get all the latest gossip and news from any vanguards that just returned.

The door clanged with the entrance bell as Don and John walked in, “Abby.” Each of the brothers greeted me with a head nod as they came in and went to the back corner to their favorite table.

“Hi boys.” I greeted them in return, then went and grabbed a bucket and some beer. “Are you staying tonight?” I asked Grady through the order window who was in the back getting ready to stock the cooler.

“Nah, not tonight. I’ve got some old computers Hendricks wants me to put together, see what I can come up with.”

“Alright,” I smiled at him while I filled the bucket with ice and shoved several bottles of barley in to keep them cool.

Grady was our go to guy for all the techy stuff, he was a genius. He worked magic on old computers and programs and helped keep the town organized for the Commander. I don’t understand anything that he does, but I know he had a hand in getting us connected with the other colonies through radio waves or some other magic form of communication. He also made it possible for us to keep in contact with the town while we were out on a job. He’s smarter than all the other knuckleheads that serve, so naturally he takes a lot of flak from them about being a nerd, or what they assume a ‘nerd’ is based on ancient gossip magazine and books.

Grady is older than me, but he has such a baby face that he sometimes looks younger than I am. He’s tall and wears his golden brown hair in such a way that I’m never sure if it was on purpose or if that’s just how he woke up. He always wears the same thing everyday, a blue or gray t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Sometimes he wears glasses, they’re either brown or black.

“Thanks for helping today.” I told him before going over to deliver the beer to Don and John.

“How are my two favorite ranchers this evening?” I said with a smile as I sat their bucket on the table. “I hear I’ll be getting some fresh corn soon.”

“Yes ma’am, crops lookin’ real nice. Shouldn’t be more than a couple weeks er better and we’ll get ya the best pickin’ of the bunch.” John drawled after taking a long swig off his cold beer.

“That’s good to hear! We haven’t had any since last season, it’ll go quick here.” I beamed.

“And how you doin’ Abby? Them boys been treating you right outside the gates?” Don asked with his serious eye. It was a pretty standard question from him to me, and he always gave me a certain look when he asked.

“Oh, of course!” I waved a hand in front of me as if to knock the question out of the air. “Not one of those boys is dumb enough to mess with me Don. They know they’d have a world of hurt coming to them once they came back.” I told him. “Plus, I carry a gun.” I said with a wink.

“Well, if you ever need anything…”

“You’ll be the first to know.” I promised. “Holler when you need a refill. There’s plenty more where that came from.” I smiled at them again before turning and going back to the bar.

Don and John are two of the farmers that work over in the town fields; their both really big boys with fists and hearts the size of my head. The two brothers work really hard and don’t usually come in, so when they do I try to keep them happy. The farm itself is located furthest from the main part of town but is guarded just as heavily as the rest of it. Thompson Falls is surrounded by a security fence much like you would have found around a prison back in the day, in fact the steel fencing is from an old prison; it’s just the brick walls that are new.

The farm has livestock and produces a lot of food for the town. That and along with everything the vanguard bring in, what the hunters gather and the gardens we grow, we keep well feed.

By the time I went back to the front a small group of people had come in, and since Harper wasn’t here yet and Charlie quit helping after dinner was served, I hurriedly went to the bar to take their order.

We had a decent amount of liquor to choose from and we never ran out of beer. We didn’t always get the ‘brand name’ stuff that was left on the shelves from the old super markets and liquor stores, but we had a few people around town that had taken up brewing their own, so we keep the bottles and serve their private stock when it was ready.

I can’t mix a drink to save my life, so unless the customer knew what was in it, they were shit out of luck. Blaise was the bartender, or mixologist as he liked to call himself, he was sort of a chemical engineer with all forms of liquid. During the day he makes Ethanol and Bio-Diesel for the town and cars to run on so we don’t deplete our stock when our PEI equipment is down and on the weekends he mixes drinks for me here at the bar.

It was also nice to have him around when someone let the booze get the best of them and they started to get rowdy. Blaise was about six-five and two hundred and eighty pounds of muscle, he was a brick shithouse and nobody messed with him. Legend has it that someone picked a fight with him once and ended up in a coma for a month after one punch to the head. Blaise is a great guy and even though the boys like to talk shit, none of them are stupid enough to try and debunk that rumor.

By the time Harper had shown up Blaise had been here for a full hour and the bar was packed. She went straight to work after apologizing to me and giving Charlie the stink eye; those two had a thing for getting on each others nerves (I told them it was because they were a lot alike, but neither agreed).

I was stocking the cooler in the back when the Commander opened the door and stood there waiting for me. I was still pretty pissed at him for what he pulled on me earlier, but I knew it was nothing compared to what was waiting for him with my mother, still I gave him the silent treatment while I finished what I was doing.

After I was done with the cooler I went and started boxing up some of the empty bottles that had been cleaned and sterilized to send over to Summer’s garage where she could fill them up again. Hendricks was a patient man, so instead of pushing me to speak to him he just started helping me with my work and waited for me. I lasted about eight minutes before I broke.

“She made me scrub in.” I told him. I tried to sound angry, and I was, but the truth was it was an amazing experience and I was glad to have been a part of it. I wish it would have been my choice however, and that I hadn’t been tricked into doing it, but after I got over my initial reaction I was able to step back and allow myself to enjoy the experience. There aren’t too many people who can say that as a waitress they went on break and instead of lunch they delivered a baby.

“She was really mad then?”

I looked over at him like he was crazy, raising my eyebrows at the ridiculous question, “Yeah.” I told him nodding my head.

“I should probably get home.”

“You should probably going into hiding and change your name.” He stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me, “She’d find me.”

“I have no doubt.” I said, turning again to face him as he had done to me, then gave him a smile to let him know all was forgiven.

“I wasn’t completely honest with you today Abby and I apologize, I should have warned you about what you were walking in on. To be fair, I knew she would be fine and that your mother just needed to be pushed, but it was wrong of me to push you and use you as my poker, so, I am sorry.” He told me sincerely.

I shrugged it off knowing he didn’t really mean any harm, “You’re forgiven, but just so we’re clear, I won’t be doing any more favors for you…at least for a while.” I told him seriously.

Commander Hendricks could be trusted—completely—that really wasn’t in question; it was his truthfulness or lack thereof that got the best of him sometimes. When he thought he was doing something covert that would be beneficial, but didn’t want to tell anyone all the details in case it fell through, he would dance around the truth. The fact that it usually was beneficial wasn’t the point either; he needed to learn that people could be trusted and that he could share his burdens.

“So should I get her chocolates or flowers?” He asked making light of the situation.

“Well since we don’t have either, I’d go with something more useful, say like a nice bottle of red from the back and a foot massage.”

“Right.” He responded solemnly, as if I just told him he would need a root canal.

“And unless you’re looking to be scolded in front of a bar full of people, I would find her before she finds you.” I added as I started for the door.

“Abby?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.”

Giving him a nod I made my way back to the front and behind the bar.

“Everything OK?” Blaise asked as I washed glasses and looked around for empties and those who needed refills.

“Yep, everything’s great. How’s it going out here?”

“Pretty usual stuff, Charlie’s in the back shooing away bar flies and hanging with her friends, the winos are getting ready to leave with a couple decanters of Pinot, the boozers broke two beer bottles and a glass knocking over a table on the patio, and Jeff just showed up and informed me Holden and the rest of the guys were on their way.”

“So same shit, different day huh?”

“You got it.”

“Hey Abby, are there any more peanuts or popcorn in the back?” Harper asked as she came up to the bar with another tray of dirties for me. She was kinda short so I had to help her get it on the counter and then slid it away from her the rest of the way. “The farmer boys are looking for a snack.” She finished saying once her fingers were free from the tray.

“Hmm, I think we have some popcorn, but not peanuts. Do you want to check or should I?”

“I got it.”

“Hey, are they hungry or just snacky?” I asked her as she made her way around the bar toward the double swinging doors to the back.

“Snacky?”snack She said and looked at me with an odd expression. “Really Abby?”

“What. That’s a word.”

“No, it’s not.” She rolled her eyes at me and flipped her blonde pony tail as she headed for the back. “And I didn’t ask, I’ll just get the popcorn and let you ask if they want anything more. I’m not opening that can of worms.”

“Sure.” I told her and then finished up the dishes before going over and asking the two brothers if they were hungry. “Hey guys, did you want something more to eat than just popcorn? I can whip you up a couple of sandwiches real quick?”

“Thanks Abby, but we ain’t wantin’ to cause no fuss. This here popcorn will do us just fine.” Don answered me and then took another pull off his beer.

“Nonsense. I’ll be right back with two turkey sandwiches and some chips.” And with that I turned and walked away before they could argue any further. They provided our community with food; the least I could do was make it for them when they were hungry.

“I’ll take a sandwich too since you’re going back there.” Holden quipped rudely as I walked by. He and the rest of his crew had just shown up and sat down while I was talking to the ranchers about getting them something to eat.

“Kitchen’s closed Holden, but we start serving breakfast at nine.” I said as I kept walking past him without batting an eye. “It’s going to be one of those nights Blaise, I hope you’re ready.” I told my bartender as I pushed through the double swinging doors and went into the kitchen to make a couple of sandwiches for two of the handful of men that I actually liked who were in the bar.

A few minutes later I was walking back over to the table with two turkey on white –extra meat, and homemade chips from this afternoon’s lunch. “Here you go and if you need anything else don’t be afraid to ask.” I said to the two of them.

“I’ll take a refill.” Holden said pushing his empty bottle in my stomach as I was walking by.

Looking down I yanked the bottle from him and slapped his hand away. “It’s a little early for you to be acting like an asshole Holden. Maybe you should call it a night.”

“I just got here Abby.”

“And you’re already finished with your second beer.”

“Well I wanted a sandwich, but you wouldn’t give me one of those, so I guess I’ll just drink my dinner.”

“Holden.” I clenched my teeth and took a deep breath before continuing to speak. “You and I both know damn well that you don’t want a sandwich. Why do you do this?” I paused for a moment until he formed his cocky grin, “You know what, I don’t care. Do you boys want another round too?” I said turning away from him to face the rest of the table. Without actually bothering to get an answer from them I left Holden to make his smart ass comments behind my back and went to the bar.

“I don’t understand why you keep letting him come back Abby.” Blaise commented as he filled up two buckets with ice while I grabbed the beer.

I didn’t reply, I just shook my head at myself and in answer to his question. Sometimes I wondered the same thing.

“Hey, why don’t I take his table for the night, you know, to make up for me being late today?” Harper suggested as she cleared off her tray. “He likes me.”

“Deal.” I said to her sticking my hand out to shake on it. “No take backs.”

The next several hours went by pretty smooth and by the time ten o’clock came around most of the patrons had gone home, leaving only the drinkers for the rest of the night.

Harper was good at containing Holden, she even convinced him to leave before one, which meant that we were able to close up early. Cleanup was quick and an hour later I found myself shutting down all the lights, locking up the doors and heading to my room for a much needed shower.

I was snuggled deep under my blankets and almost asleep when the night bell in my room started to chime. I thought I might be dreaming so I ignored it the first time, but when it rang again I knew that sleep was going to evade me this night. With a groan I threw back the heavy comforter and climbed out of my warm bed. Sliding on my fuzzy boots I drug my feet over the carpet and toward the front door as I tied my beat up robe around my waist.

The sound of sliding metal as it released from the latch was a loud echo in the empty motel, I would have treasured the sound if I had known then it would be the last quiet reverberation for a long time to come.

Chapter Two

“[_ All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra _]

Before anyone is allowed to enter the city limits there are several steps that are taken and need to be completed before entrance is permitted; for everyone, every time. It can be a tedious process and is guaranteed to get on your nerves, but it keeps the town clean and the people in it safe, it’s also why Thompson Falls is one of the larger settlements that has never had an outbreak.

There is one main entryway where people are allowed to come and go, it includes three separate security check points and tracked mesh security gates before you make it to the final approach that will lead into the town. The first is a guarded gate that allows you in based on who you are and what you are doing; the obvious requirement to process through this gate is that you do not display any visible signs of infection or have hostile intentions.

Once you’ve passed through the first gate you will be in what we call the decontamination zone. There is a medical outpost in this guarded section that is a mandatory check point for all breathers, including animals. This is also where weapons, clothing and any outside items are inspected and cleaned before being re-issued, destroyed or shipped to the town. Most clothing items that have been contaminated with blood go to the incinerator. Weapons are cleaned and sterilized along with our protective gear.

Food items are inspected and if there are any signs of contamination it is also disposed of via incineration. Food is not known to be a carrier of the disease and the only time it is contaminated is if it is within range of blood spatter, it’s also rare that any member of the vanguard teams ever bring back something that has the potential of infection, but it has been known to happen and nothing is left to chance.

Animals are not carriers of the virus either, so putting any animal through the medical bay is mostly cautionary and humane. Animals of all kinds will die from a bite, but they don’t spread it, and thankfully they don’t come back after death either. If an animal does have a bite it will be euthanized instead of allowing it to suffer before its eventual death.

Any breathers that make it to the medical bay are stripped of all weapons and clothing and then showered. After you have been cleaned you are provided with a hospital gown and a member of the medical team will examine you for any bite marks or wounds. Once you are cleared there you will be given a blood test as a final inspection before clearance. The blood test is a finger prick where one drop of blood is placed on a slide that has been brushed with a small amount of mercury, if the blood is contaminated with the virus it will react with the mercury immediately upon contact. It was discovered, with the help of Vampires, that mercury has a deadly effect on zombies because of its known poisoning effect on blood, and since blood is their diet and consumes the reanimated in every way its effect on them exponential.

Even in humans mercury in high doses will cause sepsis that could potentially lead to death. Vampires have a high allergic reaction to it, but not as immediately severe as it is to the kooks. The mercury blood test is the only one that is really needed, but in the past it has proved not to be fool proof which is why the physical examination is still necessary.

If you are cleared from the medical bay you are given something to wear and processed through to the next gate. If you do not pass the exam or the blood test, you are taken to a holding cell in the decon-zone. What happens there varies from person to person.

The next gate is a precautionary entrance in case of contamination or outbreak from the medical bay. This entryway leads to the main gate, or gate tower, that is not unlike that of an old castle. The large gate tower is connected to the outer brick wall that serves as our main barrier and is one of three that are around the perimeter. The gate tower is the only one with steady flow in and out with the other two being locked and used for emergencies only.

The gate tower, which is the final access that allows you into Thompson Falls, has two separate gates with turrets on each side and an armed guard always on post. Both gates can be opened manually but have controls on both sides of the wall for mechanical use. The first is a cantilevered sliding gate with infill and rotating serrated edge spikes at the top. This gate slides across the entire roadway easily allowing vehicles and groups of people of all sizes through before securely locking behind you. This gate is closed at all times with no exceptions. The second gate is a crash resistant solid sheet infill sliding gate that is closed only during emergencies. It is otherwise left open but always on the ready to be closed in a moment’s notice.

The large brick barrier wall that surrounds the entire town is about 15 feet high. Zombies don’t climb walls or use tools and since it was only designed to keep them out it isn’t necessary to have it any higher, additionally the wall has guard towers every one hundred feet, each with its own alarm, CB radio, armed guard and spot light. Past the brick wall and guard towers is the last line of defense for the town – the large steel fencing that borders my running track.

The steel fencing was retrieved from old prisons, airports and any other high security facility that was not capable of being re-purposed as an outpost or community. The fence is a high quality galvanized steel that measures approximately sixteen and half feet tall that’s topped with coiled razor wire that adds between one and half to two feet of additional height. The fence in most areas is anti-climb with no toe or finger holes, giving it a flat profile and making it mostly impossible to climb and get past.

Once you’re inside the gates of Thompson Falls you’ll find very nearly what a small town used to look like before the ‘end of the world happened’. The small town and all the buildings were rebuilt or repaired but left almost exactly how they were originally, save for the new additions.

Along with some new buildings, roads and housing we put in ourselves the only things that are noticeably different are the extra wind turbines and solar panels. Everything else probably looks like it did when all the towns’ people left.

The entire town runs alongside the Clark Fork River and even though it’s our main water source and we use it to supply us with water energy from turbines, you can only hear the river flow as it passes by. The town walls block out most of the river view unless you are up higher than ground level and only then can you see the beauty that is around us. With the whole town being squared in by the protective barrier that keeps us safe from the morgue, you have to see the river water with your ears and listen to the surrounding mountain tops and forests with your eyes.

We take pride in keeping our small home beautiful and try to make it as comfortable as possible given the circumstances and our surroundings. Every yard or available space is filled with a garden, plants, trees or flowers to make up for the comforting but dreary view of our border.

All this is what everyone here in the town has seen and had to pass through before being allowed into our little community. It can make you feel separated from the rest of the world sometimes, but what’s waiting for you on the outside is what makes these precautions necessary to keep you safe here on the inside.

  • * *

The soft scrap of my slippers as I moved sluggishly across the floor was a quiet echo as I took the last few steps toward the entrance door of the motel. In the window I could make out a few shadows through the curtain with the provided light from the full moon, the white beam illuminating one figure I recognized immediately while providing a glow of direction in the otherwise pitch black darkness of the O.

I grabbed the cool round door knob once the lock had unlatched and opened the heavy wood barrier to find Commander Hendricks and two guards standing on the porch and the steps. “Hey Abby, sorry to wake you.” Hendricks said to me as I moved aside to let them in.

“It’s alright, sleeps over rated.” I croaked back with a lazy smile. “What do we have?”

“Ricks team. He brought back a small group, five adults and three children.” He told me as he waved his two men to bring in the people. Three men came in first, each with a small child in their arms, followed by the two women and the guards.

“How many rooms?” I asked no one in particular as I looked on at the group, the smell of burnt wood or campfire lingering around them.

“Four.” Hendricks answered for them after a moment of silence. The commander was good at studying the information the people provided at the gate, he liked for them to know he was paying attention just as much as he liked knowing who was in his town. “This is Ryan and his son Conner.” He introduced me to the first man. “They’ll need a room.”

Ryan was a taller, slim guy that looked to be about in his thirties. He had dark hair, dark eyes and a short dark beard. The boy he was holding, Conner, was just the opposite, light skin and blonde hair. He was sleeping but I could guess his eyes were probably blue.

“Alright.” I answered him as I went around the front desk to retrieve keys and hand them out after introductions and according to Hendricks’ direction.

“This is Lucas and the little one he’s holding is Lexie. They will need a key.” Hendricks said indicating to the two of them. Lucas was about my height, five-seven-ish, with a little extra weight around his waist; he wore round glasses and shaggy dirty-blonde hair and had a kind smile. The little girl Lexie was awake and gave me a shy grin and wave while she halfway hid her eyes behind her dads face. Her curly strawberry blonde hair complimented her tiny figure and highlighted her blush lips and cream skin.

“Here is Lucas’s brother Owen and Owens wife Emily and their daughter Madelyn.” He told me. Owen looked like his brother, maybe shorter and slightly more overweight. He also had curly blonde hair and light eyes, probably in his late thirties. Emily was a little taller than her husband with a slimmer figure and light brown hair. She was all wide eyed and worried as she stood protectively by her husband and smoothed her sleeping daughters’ dark hair as she slept comfortably on the man’s shoulder.

“And finally, this here is Paige; she’ll need her own room.” Hendricks said finishing with introducing me to the last girl. Paige looked my age, but maybe a year or two younger. Her shoulder length hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail with bangs that lay flat and almost in her eyes. The color was hard to gauge in the muted light of the desk lamp but if I were to guess it looked auburn. She had long lashes and full dark lips and was pretty, I could tell that much even though she was dirty like the rest of the group.

“Welcome to Thompson Falls.” I told them with a smile as I handed over the keys. “I’m Abby.” Quiet and tired murmurs of thanks were followed by polite refusals of the sandwiches I offered before I showed each of them to their rooms. Once they were settled I went back to where the Commander and his two guards were waiting for me. Hendricks had made a pot of coffee and was pouring himself a cup while the other two leaned against a wall. The smell was strong in the room and I guessed he made it extra stout for his long night ahead.

“How are they?” He asked before taking a cautionary sip of the hot beverage. He was dressed in tan cargo pants and a tan shirt with his gun belt securely around his waist.

“They didn’t say too much, but they all looked really happy to see the beds in the rooms.” I smiled as I sat down in the chair closest to me. “And the showers.” I told them and they chuckled.

“You look beat girl, you should get some rest.” Malik, one of the guards, said to me. He was dressed almost identically to Hendricks, but his stalky, darker frame and long dreads gave the garments around him a more defined look. Josh, the other guard, was close to an exact opposite of Malik, his white skin and bald head where a contrast to his dark gray cargo pants and black t-shirt. Both men were attractive, in their mid-twenties and were rarely seen one without the other.

“Oh, I’m only here in physical form,” I told him, while I stifled a yawn and tucked my legs up under myself. “the rest of me is still passed out in my bed.”

“Why don’t you go back and rest Abby,” Hendricks told me. “I’ll clean up here after I finish my coffee, there’s no need for you to be sleep deprived.”

“What’s the story with Rick’s team?” I asked, ignoring him. “And where was this group found?” Hendricks only gave me the stink eye for a moment before telling me what I wanted to know, while Malik and Josh held back snorts and laughter.

“Rick’s team was over in the Dakota’s gathering medical supplies when we last had contact with them. They were circling around and heading back through the northern part of Wyoming when they found this group. They were coming from the Honor Camp near Newcastle; they say the place was overrun with kooks.”

“And the eight of them were the only ones that escaped?” I asked surprised. Honor was a large settlement with numbers close to our own, not to mention it was once a prison of sorts, so its security was really good too.

“They don’t know for sure.” He said nodding his head in the direction of our sleeping guests. “They each said it all happened so fast that when they saw an opportunity to escape, they took it.”

“Wasn’t Honor under Vampire protection?”

“Yeah.”

“But, their facility is almost as secure as Thompson Falls, add that with the vamps…” I trailed off, unsure of how to continue.

“That’s where the details get a little strange.” Hendricks said; his tone in agreeance with my own confusion. “From the sound of it, they were kook spawn and not your regular munchers, but the neckers should have been more than capable of running them off.” Commander Hendricks shook his head in frustration as he relayed what had been told to him, to me.

The reason vampire protection is so sought after is because they don’t lose. Their stronger and faster and their senses are better than humans. Even if it was a large group of kook spawn attacking Honor, they would have heard them way before they reached the town and could have had the problem handled without losing anyone, let alone the entire community.

“Are we sure about them?” I asked him, indicating that I meant our new sleeping guests. “…or their story?”

“No.” He told me without hesitation. “But for now we have nothing else that says otherwise. It seems unlikely that a group of zombies were able to overrun a town under the protection of vamps and wipe out more than three hundred people, but until we know for sure, that’s what the story is.”

Commander Hendricks downed the rest of what was left in his cup, and then went to the pot to pour the remainder in his thermos. The information that had been told to me tonight was having a hard time taking root in my brain, I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so tired, or the fact that the story itself seemed outlandish, time and more information were needed for me to make any sense of it.

“What’s the plan then?” I asked him. I knew that the Commander wouldn’t just let this go, and once Rick’s team was debriefed and he had all the information available, we would be learning more on our own.

“The plan for right now is for you to get some sleep.” He told me in a disapproving tone. “Then, and only after you don’t look like road kill, we’ll talk more about what to do.”

“Fine. But if its beauty sleep you’re after, then we’re all screwed.” I said to him as I stood getting ready to go back to my room.

“I’m leaving these two here for the night.” He said jutting out his chin toward Malik and Josh.

“I figured.” I said to him as I turned to smile at my two overnight guests. “You guys know the drill.” I said to them as I began to walk down the hall. “Just make sure I have enough food left to feed the locals.”

  • * *

“If there aren’t any other questions about this run, let’s get home and get some rest, we will need all the sleep we can get.” Hendricks said to the group of us, trying to lighten the mood after the evenings debrief.

For the last several hours we have been sitting around in the high school gym going over everything that had been told to us. All the raiding parties left in town were here along with various members of the community, especially those that needed to know everything to keep the town running.

After all the information had been relayed, we started planning a run down to Newcastle to see if we could find out any more useful information, or if anyone else was still alive. We usually don’t travel in as large of a group as we plan to this time, but under the circumstances we thought it better to be safe than sorry. It’s a long trip and if we find a horde of kooks or evo’s we will need all the hands and guns we can get, so in all there will be four teams going, equaling twenty-six people.

“Alright then, get some rest.” Hendricks finished saying, dismissing us. “We’ll leave tomorrow first thing in the morning.”

When I was finally back at the O, the dinner rush was just dying down and the staff was getting ready for the bar crowd. GG, Charlie and Harper were running the place with several extra’s on the floor. Word must have gotten out that we would need some help around here for a couple of weeks.

“Hey lady, how goes it?” Charlie asked me as I made my way up to the counter. Today she was wearing her short hair in spiky ponytails on either side of her head and her makeup was dark to match her clothes; a short tight skirt, tank top and knee high boots. She looked like a goth baby.

“We leave in the morning.” I told her and then sat at one of the stools and took a big gulp out of the glass she was drinking from. I immediately regretted it as I forced the thick grassy liquid down my throat. Charlie was very earthy in her diet, she ate a ton of fruit and vegetables, which is great, but the drinks she would mix up…gross was putting it mildly.

“You should get some rest then, have you eaten?” She said trying to hide her smile as she watched with humor at my disgust.

“I’ll get something and take it to my room, what did you guys make anyway?” I asked curiously after having just tasted her ‘drink’. Usually it’s Grady or I who come up with the dinner menu, but since neither of us was available it was left up to them to decide and make it. I hope people were able to eat it.

Charlie smiled, obviously proud of herself before telling me, “Pizza.”

“Pizza? How did you do you that?” I was surprised. Pizza wasn’t something we did very often around here, and mostly because cheese was harder to get and keep fresh more than anything else.

“It was easy and we needed something easy.” She shrugged. “First we had GG show us how to make some dough since neither me or Harper knew how. Then we used some of the canned tomatoes to make the sauce and the venison sausage you had in the fridge, we chopped up some veggies and after I went over to Addley’s and asked her for some goat cheese, viola’! Pizza!”

“Wow, well good for you two.” I told her impressed. “I’m glad you guys were able to bond over food. It’s a start.” I smiled at her as I stood up to go hunt down some of their pizza, choosing to ignore her eye roll and attempt to whip me with her wet towel.

The pizza was still warm, so after grabbing two of the remaining few slices I hollered to Charlie through the serving window that I was going to bed. “Will you be here in the morning before I leave?” I asked her.

“Yeah.” She called back to me as she cleaned and cleared off a couple of the tables. With that I ducked out through the back entrance and hurried to my room so I could enjoy the comforts of civilization before I found myself out in the open and without the luxury of a good night’s sleep.

After eating the surprisingly good pizza, I went in my bathroom and took a long hot bath. It’s something of a going away gift to myself; a ritual that I indulge in provided we have hot and running water.

By the time my alarm went off the next morning I had already been lying in bed awake for close to an hour. I was of a mix of nervous energy and excitement, the adrenaline rush you get when you’re out in the morgue really gets the blood pumping.

After taking a shower and dressing I went to the kitchen to find a hot breakfast that was already cooking on the stove. My mother was pouring a cup of coffee for herself when she caught sight of me coming through the door. Without me having to ask she grabbed another cup and filled it up and then handed it to me.

“Good morning Abby. How did you sleep?” She asked before going back into the kitchen to check on the items she was cooking.

“Good.” I told her as I made my way over to sit next to Hendricks who had his own cup of coffee in his hand.

Breakfast was quiet, much like it usually is before we go out on an assignment, and after we ate our pancakes, bacon and eggs (over medium) we said our goodbyes and made our way to the Safe.

The Safe is where we get in our gear, are given our weapons and check our supplies before heading to the Pit to load up in our vehicle and leave.

Over the years people learned quickly that t-shirts and jeans were not suitable clothes for protecting yourself from a kook bite, and soon began wearing things that were more appropriate to withstand hungry teeth.

Our bite-proof suit is a requirement for all vanguard when they are out in the morgue. We’ve stock piled hundreds of different types of clothing, cloth and protective gear that have proven time and time again to be the second best defense against a zombie attack. The first of course being anything sharp or with a bullet. All our gear is made up of one or a combination of cut proof cloth, shark chain mail and Kevlar.

The vanguard wear a uniform that starts with cut proof long underwear and a long sleeve turtle neck that’s light weight and form fitting, we have them tailored by Joni; our resident seamstress, to fit so they don’t get in the way under everything else we pile on. A Black leather and Kevlar jumpsuit covers the underwear and knee high leather biker boots go over top of that. Sewn on the front and back of the leather jumpsuit is a reflective red Japanese symbol that means Human. It basically looks like a fancy upside down Y that’s shiny and crimson in color that’s meant to protect us from each other or others if and when we are moving around in the dark. It’s saved a few people a few times, myself included.

We also have bullet proof vests, gloves, body armor and hoodies or helmets to choose from and a slew of other things to pick from to layer on. It feels like a lot until you’re being hunted and chased by something dead and infectious, it’s then when you feel totally naked and curse yourself for not putting more on.

Once we’re dressed, we grab our weapons and head over to the Pit where we load up our transport with more weapons, food, water and first aid supplies before heading to the gate.

Because this group is so big and because we are hoping to find survivors we are taking a larger array of vehicles this time, ranging from a blacked out school bus with bars on the windows and spikes welded to the body and tires, to a caravan of trucks and military vehicles we’ve found and re-purposed to suit our needs; Humvees, Army GILA, Armored Fighting trucks and Fords F250’s. All painted black and reinforced with various weapons, roll bars, road armor, spot lights and grills.

As a rule when we travel we stay away from main roads and highways as much as possible while avoiding the biggest cities. They tend to hold the most dangers from both the living and the dead, and unless it’s necessary we stay away.

Humanity has suffered more than in just the obvious and although there are still thousands of us who function on a basic human level, there are those who have lost all of their way. It’s unfortunate that the disease that has plagued the world wasn’t enough to rid us of our indecencies against each other.

On the other hand, for those of us who are interested in surviving this nightmare, it has strengthened and united us in ways that once were only hoped for. We no longer hold prejudice or fears against one another based on antiquated beliefs.

“Stay close, we’ll be drawing a lot of attention to ourselves this way, and we can’t afford for anyone to fall behind.” Commander Hendricks addressed us one last time as we stood around the gate readying ourselves to leave. “Keep your radio’s turned to channel four. Our first stop is Seeley Lake.”

The three hour drive to Seeley Lake was quiet and uneventful, save for the few wondering kooks we picked off in the fields or on the sides of the road. It’s one of our traveling games and we keep score. There’s no prize, unless you count first dibs on any loot found. So far, I’m in the lead.

The town itself has been empty and cleared of infection for a while now and we use it because of that reason and because of it’s out of the way location. We stopped in the small town to fuel up and stretch our legs, and for some to change their driving partners.

We use Seeley Lake on a regular basis and take care and pride in what is left of the small town. We keep it stocked with supplies and come up this way to hunt and fish. Most of the town was burned long before we started coming here, but there are a few buildings that were untouched and some cabins up further in the hills that we use. We also have several fishing boats we keep here.

The remainder of the trip had lulls and peaks of calm and commotion. Once we passed through the small wilderness section between Deer Lodge and Clancy our trip through Townsend was accosted with gunfire. The small town is a hotspot for stragglers that come from the overrun capital Helena, and as many times as we’ve tried to rid the town of the dead, the best that we can do is make sure the road is clear of their remains for our journey the next time.

It took us a couple of hours to clear the bodies off the street and put them into a burn pile once we had killed them all. We touch the infected as little as possible and never intentionally come into contact with them and our bare skin. We keep boxes of gloves, disposable face masks and other protection gear on hand and have an array of shovels, meat hooks and trash pickers to move the bodies and their parts; we even have a plow attached to the fronts of most of our pickup trucks in case there are just too many to move by hand. If we can avoid it though, we try not to use the vehicles as weapons or clean up tools. They are a pain in the ass to clean and can sometimes take weeks to be cleared for use again.

I’d just scooped up a severed foot with my shovel when I saw Holden out of the corner of my eye. He was using his favorite clean up tool—the meat hook—and had just whipped it through the air, over his head, slamming the point of it under a kooks jaw and through its skull until the tip popped through one of its eyes, then he turned and started pulling it into the burn pile.

“What?” He said to me in his cocky tone as he noticed I was watching him, then smirked at me and kept walking, dragging the dead body behind him leaving a trail of mess and old blood in its wake.

“You’re disgusting that’s what.” I said to him then lifted the shovel up over my shoulder and threw the foot I had in it past him and into the pile.

“You mean efficient.” He said back to me. I shook my head and rolled my eyes at him before heading back over to the other side of the road.

Blaise had just flung a bag full of parts over his back and was heading in our direction when he told me, “Just ignore him Abby, you know how he is.”

I nodded in agreement then bent down and grabbed a half man by the ankles and drug him to the pile with the rest of the bodies.

Once the cleanup was done we dumped a gallon of fuel on the carcass heap and set it on fire. After that we loaded back up and headed out before anything else found itself drawn to our location.

By the time we reached the old abandoned airport hangar a few miles past the old Wyoming border we had been on the road for more than twelve hours. Travel at night can be far more dangerous than traveling during the day, so after checking and making sure the area was clear and secure we parked our convoy and set up camp inside the large steel building.

“You should get some rest Abby.” Hendricks said, sitting down next to me and the small fire that we made.

“I will after you. You’re the one that drove all day, besides I’ve napped on and off for most of the drive.” I said to him. He nodded in acknowledgment to me then turned his focus on our guest.

“Ryan, how you holding up?” He asked the man as he handed me a bag of deer jerky and then pulled off the tops of several soup cans to set them carefully around the fire. Ryan was one of the rescues from Honor that came back with Rick. When he found out about our planned trip to come back here he offered to be our guide into the town and to direct us in the best way to get there.

I couldn’t decide if he looked better or worse after a shower and some sleep. His clothes were clean but he still looked like a mess and his face was hollow from stress and weight loss.

“Thanks.” He said to me as I passed the bag of dried meat over to him. “I’m doing alright, a little anxious to be honest.” He said with a weak smile.

“Well, that’s to be expected.” Hendricks told him and then added after a few minutes, “We can’t turn around or afford to send anyone back with you, but if you change your mind at any time, I’m sure we can find you a safe spot to wait until we’re through.”

“No.” Ryan said sternly, shaking his head. “No sir, I want go. I need to know if anyone survived. There are people that we left behind, our families and friends.”

Hendricks stared at him for a moment then said to him, “Understood.” as if they had made some sort of pact or deal of some kind, before handing him one of the soup cans.

We sat in silence for a while after that; the three of us, and ate our lukewarm potato soup and deer jerky. The silence between us was accompanied by the crackle of the fire and the wind as it howled and rustled the metal sheeting of the building. You could hear the breeze as it whistled through the small cracks and fissures in the windows and the seams of the structure.

Outside the night was bright with a clear sky full of twinkling stars and a full moon that shone in through the glass. The faint glow shimmered in as it danced in competition with the blaze from the fire for attention.

In this flimsy shelter I felt eerily comfortable out here in the morgue. Maybe it was the large group that was with me or the leisure of the night, but I was perfectly at ease in this place we had sought out for protection. On a normal run there are no relaxing meals by a fire and the quiet conversations and stories being had and told are a rare occurrence. It’s not often we find a true shelter to wait out the night and our focus is usually strictly and soundlessly on the dark ahead of us.

I watched the two men that sat on either side of me and contemplated the thoughts that were going through their heads as emotions played across their faces. I wouldn’t want to be in either of their shoes, the unknown of what we were walking into was enough without the added pressure of being responsible for everyone here, or the fear of what you may or may not find at home. I couldn’t imagine what Ryan was going through and I would never want to be the person that had to make the tough decisions that came with command.

We sat in silence for a while longer before making our way over to the others that were in our group. After setting up a watch rotation most of our party took to their vehicles or a quiet place to get some sleep. I volunteered, along with a couple of the others, to be on watch for the night knowing we would be able to sleep while we traveled throughout the day again tomorrow.

I made my way over to where I would be spending my night and settled in with a watchful eye out into the darkness of the morgue. The window I was looking through was filthy with a layer of old dirt and grime that looked like it had been collecting for years. Pulling up my sleeve over my wrist I cleaned it the best I could with just the pressure of the cloth. Once I was satisfied with the cleared circle I was able to see more clearly the night ahead.

As the hours ticked by and my mind wondered I couldn’t help but think about what life must have been like before all of this, something I often found myself fantasizing about. I had an idea given to me from old magazines, newspapers and movies, but it was the feeling of security that often evaded me. The sense of caution I lived with on a daily basis was hard for me to imagine myself without, never being afraid of your own shadow and not being scared of death. It was a wonderment to me as I envied those of the past.

As the night sky began to lighten into a blue and yellow hue I felt my reality settle back in and around me, off in the distance was an old burn pile of torched bodies. All that remained were the blackened bones and a pile of ash, but it was enough to erase the mild night of day dreams and wishful thinking to get me back to the present.

The group began to slowly wake and stir with the morning light and of the smell of coffee that had been put on a small fire. My back was stiff as I made my way over for a cup of the black stuff; cream and sugar were luxuries that could only be found at the O, but I was thankful for the hot beverage anyway. After having our rationed breakfast of apples and bread I stretched, brushed my teeth and shook off the night and went back to work.

Ryan had drawn on a map indicating the best way for us to enter Honor and told us again anything he could remember about that night that might help us today.

Less than an hour later we had reloaded and packed our caravan and were on the road. It would be a couple more hours before we were close to our stopping point and before we reached our destination, so as soon as we were on the road I found myself in the backseat of a big Ford truck being lulled to sleep by the hum of the engine and the gentle rocking and sway of the vehicle as it moved and glided over the paved road.

Chapter Three

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.” – Charles Darwin

I was in a field by a quiet lake; the sun was bright on my face and the heat flushed through my skin. The rays of light lit up my closed eye lids as they blazed bright and gold from within. The sun soaked in my hair as it heated each strand; warming my head and perspiring the crowning surface. I could feel the dew of sweat as it pooled on the cap of my head and ran down the side of my face, leaving a wet trail that felt cool before drying with the small breeze.

The birds chirped happily around me as I waded in the warm water, my jeans rolled up to my knees. I could hear their feather light wings as they flapped and fluttered together while moving from tree to tree, and the leaves as they rustled with the light weight and gentle touch. As I stood in the cool drink I squished the sand and mud between my toes and skimmed my hand over the rippling surface, the smell of fresh water, clean air and wet grass filling my lungs as it cleared my head.

“Abby…” A familiar voice called from behind me. I knew the sound; I was even comforted by it, so when I turned from the watery view I wasn’t surprised to see my father approaching me. I could feel my cheeks pull up with the smile that was forming on my face as I turned toward him, the movement causing the water around me to lap up higher against my legs, dampening my jeans and leaving the flesh wet with its touch.

“Abby…” He called to me again, his advance quickening with each step as he began to move toward me. I felt myself sinking into the mud and the sand of the water as I struggled to pull free of its grasp, my heels pushing into the soft earth first, followed by the balls of my feet as I sank in further with each shift of my weight. I tried to move toward him, but the pull of the water became heavy as the clay thickened around me. I was glad that he was so close, my father, so that he might help me escape this water.

I reached out for him, his name a mumble on my lips as he began to trample through the water to get to me. He could see my struggle, his movements evident as he broke the calm surface with shattering force to catch up to me, each determined step bringing him closer as he walked with ease through the lake. As he moved deeper in, the liquid changed, and he too began to struggle against the immersion. His speed and stride slowed into dragging movements and his face converted from concern to desperate until finally consuming with need.

I flinched away from him, bringing my outstretched hands against my chest protectively at his approach. I tried to move back from him and his progress only to find myself still trapped by the mud and water and the wind as it pushed against my back and held me by my feet, caging me in and cornering me as if against a wall.

The world began to spin around me and I felt dizzy with despair as I looked into the hollow death on my father’s face. His clothes were stained black with blood and dirt, ripped and torn as the threads tentatively held together. His jaw unhinged and skewed as his broken and dirty teeth clapped together with anticipation, his eyes clouded and bloodshot, sunken and purple. I moved, frantic now, to get away from him, but my body wouldn’t cooperate, I was stuck, dumb and slow and I felt heavy and defeated with dismay.

“Abby!” The coherent word bellowed clearly through his rotten lips just has his bony hand reached out and grasped me around my shoulder…

My panicked inhale accompanied by the gentle rocking woke me as my eyes flew open and I took in my surroundings. I bite down on my desire to cry out with tears of relief once I realized it was only dream.

“Abby, are you alright?” Hendricks asked me as he pulled his hand away from where it had been lightly shaking me awake.

I nodded to him while swallowing the lump in my throat, unsure yet if I could trust my voice not to crack, and rubbed my eyes hoping to rid myself of any remainders of sleep or tears that might have escaped.

“We’re about twenty miles out of town.” He told me once I was upright and sitting. “You should get something to eat and drink, wake up and stretch your legs before we leave again.” He said to me and then opened the doors for us to get out.

I did as I was told and walked off the remainder of the dream and let the fresh air clear my head. After getting something solid in my stomach and washing it down with a bottle of warm water, I went over to where the rest of the group was gathered and talking, waiting for everyone else to refresh so we could leave.

“I want everyone with their regular team members; you’ll follow my lead and stay close.” Commander Hendricks said. “Ryan, you’ll be with me.”

“Once we are in Honor, we’ll see what we’ve got and go from there. Keep your radios on in case Grady gets a signal; otherwise we’re going in with only the hope of finding survivors. Any questions?”

When no one said anything he nodded to the group in approval, then looked over to Kat, his second.

“We’ll be going in through the remains of Newcastle and circling back around to get to Honor.” She began explaining, showing us on the map what she meant and how we would approach the town. Newcastle was the old city that was located next to the Honor Camp. “There we’ll go in through the north side of the camp, which should put us on the main road that runs straight through the whole compound. Once we’re in we’ll radio for you to follow if it’s safe.” She said, then stepped back to let the Commander finish.

“Alright people, stay alert and stay alive.” Hendricks said, putting his cap back on. “Let’s move out.”

We all followed his direction and found our teams then loaded up and finally headed out to Honor. Brooks, my team leader, had been assigned to follow Commander Hendricks and his team. The commander took the lead in an old military GILA armored vehicle, while we followed behind him in a military Humvee. Each of the lead vehicles had roof-mounted gun rings and turrets, each chosen to go in first specifically for this reason. Behind us were Blaise and his team in the Ford F250, followed by Dan’s team with the bus and then Rick’s in another Humvee taking up the back.

The twenty minute drive felt faster than it actually was and as we passed through the ransacked and burned remains of Newcastle I felt saddened at the thought that some of these people will have lost their homes twice. Newcastle itself had long ago been burned to clear out the infection and the Honor facility was where they went to start again.

As we slowly approached the perimeter of Honor it became obvious that whatever had happened was let in easily because the trauma was in trying to get out. The broken border surrounding the camp was expelled outward rather than in, the fencing lay and pushed out at awkward angles while piles of brick and debris scattered around the barrier as obvious attempts were made to flee. Small plumes of smoke still rose from various places across the small compound while other buildings blazed with the consumption of what was left.

We stopped outside the facility and waited as Hendricks went ahead and then signaled for us to follow. Dawsen sat as gunner at the turret in our vehicle while the rest of us took aim through the open windows as we crept in slowly, making our way to the middle of the town to stop behind Hendricks and his team. Once we were all in and parked we began filtering out of our transports and waited for further direction.

The whole area looked as though it had been hit with a bomb; save for the fresh blood, bodies and fire, it looked as though it had been abandoned long ago. Layers of ash covered the surfaces all around while garbage and lost treasures littered the streets; burned, warped and faded. A sad and hollowing wind whistled through the broken windows and vacant buildings as it pushed the smell of smoke and pulled the scent of death through the area around.

As we walked around the vehicles and began to move closer to the front, the sound of dirt and dust was a loud echo as it crunched under our boots, leaving our imprints in the dust of death. On the other side of the armored truck a chorus of shuffling feet and moaning made its way closer before being cut off by quiet pops from a silenced riffle, the sound that followed was a hollowing thud as a couple of bodies fell to the ground.

“Abby!” Lauren, one of my vanguard mates, whispered intently at me just as a kook rounded the corner of a building to my right.

“Got it.” I said to her before putting a bullet between what was left of its eyes. It staggered to a halt, falling first to its boney knees before face planting itself to the earth.

As we made it to the front of the GILA a dozen other pops and thuds went off all around us, intent whispers and quiet commands were the only discernible noises that could be made out between the carrion and quiet. As everyone made their way to the front we formed a half circle around the nose of the armored truck, making sure to watch and cover all angles and directions.

The Commander was positioned in the center and was whispering intently to Ryan with both of his hands wrapped around the man’s face, making him look him in the eye. The sight of his home as it lay in shambles with no living person in sight was weighing heavier on him than he had thought or allowed himself to believe. A frantic and desperate look played on his face as he barely held it together, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, clenching and unclenching both his fists and his jaw.

We were approximately in the middle of the compound and were able to see almost everything around us. The little town was completely destroyed, these people had fought back, that much was evident, but ultimately they lost. Dozens of bodies littered the streets, some were old, their death unmistakable from long ago, and the ones that were new were only made out differently by the color of fresh blood.

The Commander had calmed Ryan down enough to give us directions on what to do next. “Search only the major buildings, stay in your groups and keep your ears on.” He said to us. “Team leaders need to stay in constant contact; we’ll meet back here when all the building have been cleared and confirmed empty.” He finished saying to the group of us.

“Blaise, I’ll need you with me, Kat will take command of your team.” Hendricks said lastly, before my team broke away from the group to begin searching.

There was only one reason Blaise and Kat would trade positions in a situation like this and it meant that Ryan wasn’t stable, which could potentially mean problems for all of us. Blaise has a special way of dealing with hysterics and it usually involved quick reflexes and pressure points, his massive frame and upper body strength would also be needed to carry Ryan if he was put out.

This didn’t bode well for the rest of us or our efforts to process through this town with as little notice as possible. We hadn’t been in a situation like this in years, and we certainly didn’t make it a habit of walking into a fresh den of the dead, so we could only hope that Ryan was in control enough to allow us to do our jobs and get all of us out of here safely.

Brooks, my team leader, indicated to us to follow him. We headed in the opposite direction of Blaise, Ryan and Commander Hendricks, and went for one of the larger buildings that we were told was used for storage. And as we passed through the scarlet painted streets and the bodies that lay in them, we made sure that the dead would stay that way by silently keeping them in their resting places with bullets to their brains.

The whole front of the building we went to first, and the left side, had been burned away, leaving only smoking support columns and singed floors and walls to the right. The basement was where we were headed and after carefully making our way through the battered shelter we found the stairwell that would lead us to where Ryan had said some people might have escaped too to hide.

With our gun lights on we made our way down the uneven concrete stairs and into the creepy basement. There were only two directions that could be taken once you reached the floor and they met up in the middle again, making a square route. We split off in half and began sweeping the area, checking all the doors and rooms as we went. By the time we meet back up with the rest of the team nothing had been found expect for a stray cat that belted out in fear when one of the doors had been opened. As we made our way back through the basement and up the stairs into the light, Brooks, while holding the scared feline, radioed to the other team leaders that this building was cleared and that we would be moving on to another.

We searched this way through two more buildings, finding nothing but darkness and ransacked items. With three other teams doing exactly what we were, we found ourselves finished of clearing the city in no time. There was only the one main building left and as we made our way back to our meeting place, Hendricks and Dan’s teams radioed that they were getting ready to head in.

It was a few minutes later that the two teams who had made it back to the convoy had radioed that something was wrong. And as soon as we received the message we began to run toward the group just as un-silenced gunfire began to permeate the vicinity.

We had just come into view when Hendricks belted over our ear pieces “All teams, Get out! Get out of here now!”

Next to the convoy there were two gunners working the turrets on the lead vehicles while the rest of the group stood around them shooting at the kooks from the ground. They were coming at them in troves, one after another, dodging around fallen bodies and pushing their way past each other to get to the front.

“Their evo’s!” Brooks yelled into his radio, which blasted in surround sound for me, as he relayed the information to the rest of the party. Evo’s were the smart ones, the group hunters and the most dangerous of the zombie breed.

We were heading toward the other unit to help when Kat noticed our approach. “Stay back!” She ordered just as everyone with her began piling in the two lead vehicles.

We moved back and took cover following her direction just as the two vehicles tore out of the area they were in, but not before throwing out two Hg-80 bombs in the cluster of the dead. As soon as the two shell casings hit the ground a bluish-gray smoke of the mercury plumed out before exploding and then dispersing in the air. The kooks that weren’t incinerated by the blast soon began to stumble and falter from the mercury left in the air as it attacked and attached itself to their dead flesh.

The fifteen or so that were left to be effected were soon a mound of melting and rotting flesh as the mercury ate its way through their systems, hissing and bubbling off blood and guts, leaving only scarred and broken bones to simmer in the slimy mess.

Hendricks noticed what was happening and stopped his team from coming any closer, instead turning them back around to face the building they had just come out of and begin killing off the kooks coming after them in that direction.

Brooks had ordered everyone but himself and two others to meet with Hendricks while they retrieved the vehicles. Evan, Lauren, JR and I formed a loose circle around one another and headed toward the Commander, while Brooks, Dawsen and Justin went to retrieve the rest of the convoy.

The evo’s poured out of the one building they were hiding in, and as soon as we made it to the Commander, they had us surrounded. There were seven of us and twenty of them and counting and it was only getting worse. As the horde grew and drew in on us Ryan began to fall apart as he prattled off random names that meant nothing to any of us, but something very real and close to home for him.

He was inconsolable and every time any one of us tried to get him to focus he would look out and see another face that he recognized. We couldn’t control him and when one of us would shoot one of them he would scream and it would start all over again.

“Blaise!” Hendricks yelled out only one time, then went back to firing on the dead coming at us. It only took him the span of a few seconds and Ryan was rendered unconscious and draped over the guys shoulder hanging lifeless off his back.

The Humvee that Justin had retrieved plowed through a section of kooks, with the other F250 that was driven by Brooks behind it and the bus with Dawsen.

Blaise shoved Ryan in the back of the F250 along with some other guys and told Justin to get out when the bus pulled up on the opposite side of where we were standing. The rotating blades on the tires sliced through a handful of evo’s before coming to a halt. Dawsen was driving and pushed open the double doors just as Holden ran to the back and flung open the back door and hollered at us to get in.

One minute we were standing there surrounded by advancing kook spawn, picking them off one at a time and as fast as we could pull the triggers, and in the next we were surround by members of the Vampire Guard and their long sharp swords as they began slicing through the dead all around us.

“Get in your vehicles and leave.” One of them ordered calmly, then began to dance and decapitate the dead in blinding speed.

Aston and Lauren were making their way over to get in the Humvee that Brooks had drove while Rick, JR and Evan were making their way toward the front door of the bus, as Dan headed to the back where Holden was waiting to pull him in.

Hendricks, Blaise and I were still in the midst of moving and shooting with the Vampires guarding our backs when we heard the horrific scream as one of us was taken down. I couldn’t afford to look away from where I was shooting but I heard Hendricks curse the name Evan under his breath and could only guess it was him who was lost.

We finally reached the back of the bus just as the first two armored vehicles came back through the dead crowd, plowing through kooks and shooting the rest. Blaise was getting ready to boost me into the back of the bus when a couple of stragglers came from around the side. I still had my riffle positioned and ready but Blaise was too close and in my way for me to get in a good shot. The man was adaptable though and had his knife pulled out and planted in one of the kooks heads before I was stable and on the ground.

I was just getting ready to put a bullet through ones skull when the zip of a stray bullet whipped passed me, landing in the Commanders left shoulder. Off in the distance Clay, one of Dan’s team members was being taken down by an evo and the gun he was holding was shooting off aimlessly in our direction.

The commander caught another one in his leg before hitting the ground. As quick as I could I shot the kook that I had been aiming for and then knelt beside Hendricks. Blaise had managed to pull out his pistol and started shooting the others when a Vampire appeared and finished off the small herd that was upon us.

As soon as the immediate danger had been abated my focus turned instantly to Hendricks and his wounds and no sooner had I set my weapon down to access him was he yelling at me “God dammit Abby get on the bus!”

I was about to protest when out of the corner of my eye I saw more of the dead approaching us. I picked up my weapon getting ready to aim when I suddenly found myself being grabbed around the waist and hustled into the back of the bus. When I was finally able to catch my bearing’s I turned around to find Blaise and a member of the Vampire Guard working together to protect the Commander as he lay on the ground.

When there was only a few left the Vampire knelt down and picked up the Commander faster than I could keep up with my eyes and was bringing him over and slowly placing him on the floor of the bus. “Grab under his arms and pull him in.” The Vampire instructed me before turning and going off in another direction.

I did as I was told and as gently as I could I pulled the Commander inside the bus as Blaise pulled himself in and slammed the door shut. The team members that were in the bus with me were shooting out of the windows, while the bus itself turned back into a grinding weapon as we drove through groups of the dead, sawing and eviscerating them in half, leaving in our wake a river of blood and entrails and loosely ground up flesh.

Over the radios I could hear as the other teams confirmed they were clear of the town and were heading back to the hangar to wait for the others, making us the last to leave. The crew that were in the bus with me were still firing and killing off kook spawn as I worked on stopping the bleeding from Hendricks’ wounds.

We pulled out of the town and were on the paved road heading away from Honor when I looked up and out the back door window, seeing for the first time what and who we were leaving behind.

“Stop the bus!” I yelled at Dawsen before moving to the back readying myself to open the latched door.

“What the hell are you doing Abby?!” Holden yelled at me, pushing my hands away from the handle.

“We can’t just leave them here! They’ll get killed!” I yelled, pointing out at the four Vampires that were left on the street. There were dozens of evo’s closing in on them and it didn’t matter how fast they were, there were too many and I knew they wouldn’t survive.

Dawsen had slowed down the bus by this point and I had just un-latched the door and swung it open to yell at them when Holden pulled me back and clasped his hand over my mouth. The Vampires were fast, and must have heard what I’d said because they were there and on the bus just as Holden began to pull me back and away from the door.

“Let her go.” One of them said, his voice like ice as his words sliced the air and slivered down my spine, the threat laced in that came with defiance.

Holden wasn’t hurting me; in fact he hardly had a grip on me at all, so when I elbowed him in the gut he easily let me go so that his full focus and attention would be on the four Vampires that stood before us.

“I wasn’t hurting her. Now get off the bus.” Holden said to them as he moved to stand in front of me; now blocking the isle, and my view of the vampire with his body.

The horde of dead that were left when the Vampires made their way onto the bus was now coming at us quickly, their hungry sounds and the smell of fresh blood pulled me back into the reality that the Commander was losing a lot of blood of his own and needed medical attention.

“We don’t have time for this!” I yelled at no one in particular as I bent down and picked up where I left off, removing Hendricks sticky clothes away from his blood soaked skin.

“Commander?” Holden asked. We didn’t deal with Vampires, that was the rule, and I had just gone and invited them in.

“Just drive.” Hendricks looked at me with a weak smile, then passed out.


Revenant

Abby Rose is a smart and capable member of the Vanguard. She also waits tables at the O Motel Bar & Grill between her shifts of zombie killing. When a strange and viscous series of murders closes in on her home, she finds herself fighting side by side with members of the VIG—vampire increment guard. Abby soon gets close to one of their leaders, Ethan Sterling, a tall, dark and handsome vampire. Loss is prevalent in this world, but can Ethan and Abby find their way, and avoid the loss of love?

  • Author: R. Valentine
  • Published: 2016-03-14 19:20:08
  • Words: 18805
Revenant Revenant