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The Orphans Brigade

The Orphans Brigade

By M. Evans

© 2014 M. Evans, All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been approximately five years since Dr. Frank Fox a man that had thought he was saving the world had been responsible for the loss of four billion people’s lives. More blood had been shed because of one man’s obsession to cure the woman he loved than all the wars of mankind put together. The numbers were not able to be measured any longer. The loss was to great, but estimates were approximately four billion lives lost.

 

****

 

Day +1497: July 4 th, 2021. World Population 1,985,110,986. Four years since X-74 unleashed on American soil

 

The teens were lined up in prone position across the edge of the roof, stationed on top of the abandoned government building in Virginia. Everyone had a job to do: the trusted were in charge of picking off the Turned, while newbies were handling clips and refilling them as quickly as they could. The bullets were flying out of the rifles and dancing on the ground.

 

In another time on another day, these teens would have been nodding off in a class somewhere, worried about if a girl liked them or if they would be asked to the prom.

Pulling triggers as fast as they could, in their sights was a group of day-ones they could tell weren’t freshly turned. They had worn clothes and sunken cheek bones—even the signs of frostbite which, being close to nightfall, were hard to see. They still had the hunger for flesh as bad as the day they had turned.

The ground was covered with bodies. The heads looked like bombs had gone off in them, and the marksmen were aiming only for the skull. The Turned were trying to get through the wreckage. They weren’t trying to take the building—they only wanted to eat every living person then move on to find more.

 

The leader of the group, showed no emotion or excitement, he merely selected another target. His shot exploded the creature’s head, going in the back and blowing apart the chin. The girl beside him tapped him on the shoulder and shouted above the noise. “Shaun, you’ve been at it for hours. You need to take a break. There are plenty of people here willing and able!”

Shaun never took his eyes off his prey, sighting them through his scope. “There’s plenty of room for them to slide in, Ellie. Go tell someone else to take a break!”

 

Ellie looked down at the row of teens. She watched through the blasts as the Turned were falling at an unbelievable rate which gave her the lightest shred of hope. “You need a break or you won’t be any good when we really need you!”

A group of Turned were clumsily climbing up the side of the wall. Shaun, who had seen thousands upon thousands of these things, had never seen them do this. He reached and grabbed Ellie’s arm, pulling her to the edge. He pointed and argued. “Look they’re learning! They’re climbing and they’ve never done anything like that before. Hell, the only reason they get through doors is eventually they figure out to rip them off! We’re going to need to clear the Turned on the ground so we can make it to a different spot.”

 

Shaun waited for one to jump to a new ledge, grabbing hard. He drew his backup gun, a twelve-gauge shotgun, and blew its face off. Only its skull and the skin peeled back from the sides remained. Its bloody tongue hung out as its body spun, scraping and bouncing off the brick on the way down.

 

Ellie watched, realizing she couldn’t change his mind. “Can’t you trust me to keep the wall safe?”

 

Shaun laughed. “Remember—you have to earn trust.”

Ellie kicked him in the leg. “You don’t trust me!? Are you effing kidding me!? And you can’t kill them all yourself, Shaun. It’s impossible! You need help…! We need help!”

 

Shaun fired one more shot, rolled to his back, and looked up at Ellie. The sun was setting over her shoulder, and his eyes couldn’t feel more tired. “Of course I do”, he chuckled. “You’ve been with me longer than X-74’s been exposed, but can you point out anyone who’s been here a year … hell, even six months!?”

He pushed up off the ground. “You…! You…!”, he shouted, pointing at a couple of the newbies. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and carried his shotgun. “You two sit on my spot! If it moves, you kill it! Nothing gets close—do you understand me!?”

They nodded assent and quickly took his place. Ellie walked behind the two fresh faces patting them on the shoulder giving them a thumbs up. She smiled trying to think of something to say, knowing that Shaun was looked at as a god to these men, capable of going into any war on the Turned and coming out not one himself. She crouched down by the two men and whispered make sure you stay vigilant there are no second chances when it comes to the wall. They both nodded not yet sure exactly what she meant. One of the two men looked curiously as she was walking away and yelled, “Ma’am, I mean Ellie what do you mean?”

 

She turned over her shoulder as she headed down to continue the shouting match with Shaun. “I mean once they come over the wall you can’t pull the trigger fast enough, they are everywhere, they are a disease and if they leave enough of you then they will make you into one of them as well.

 

Neither boy blinked they just nodded slowly and affirmatively checking the action on their gun and aiming it over the wall waiting for something to come into their sights. The speaker for the two leaned in next to the quiet one shouting. “Why did we volunteer for this?”

“The Orphans Brigade was the only place we could go. All they ask is one trip into the city fighting along their side to prove you are worthy of their protection. After that they’ll keep you safe and fed. Their creed is awesome they just want our help to return humans to the dominant race. Before those things run out of food to eat.”

 

*****

 

Shaun heard them talking and shook his head, he didn’t care what people thought he just wanted a moment’s worth of peace and quiet. Even when it was quiet he was tortured with the echoes of growling, screaming people in pain and gun blasts.

 

He took one last glimpse at the wall as he opened the steel door that led to the safety of the concrete inside. What he saw made his adrenaline which he thought was depleted come back with a surge like no other drug could give a person. A skinless bloody blackened hand appeared out of nowhere coming over the wall with nothing but bad intentions in mind.

Shaun watched in horror as one of the two boys he’d just been talked into letting defend in his place would have his life span drastically reduced. The hand pierced in through the front and ripped out the back gripping the young man’s spine, before yanking it back out. The boy collapsed and his friend screamed while shouldering his rifle. He pulled the trigger at the same time that it grabbed onto his coat and took a chunk of flesh from his neck with his dark rotting teeth. The boy and the Turned went over the side of the wall disappearing into the dark of the night.

 

Shaun ran back towards the wall knowing all too well what was going to happen. Once one made it through the barrier more would follow and then his brigade would be in search of new recruits. New soldiers and volunteers were growing scarcer by the day, especially with the lack of humans around. He looked desperately wild eyed around the roof for Ellie. Another and then another of the Turned jumped up on the roof looking for a meal. They were thin and hungry not getting satisfied nearly often enough. The thought of blood in their mouth was the only thing that fueled them they could eat for days and never truly quench their need.

 

Shaun spotted Ellie still holding her spot against the wall unwavering. She did not see the Turned midair soaring for her from behind. Even in their rotting current state of starvation they could still kill with precision. Shaun shouldered his shotgun aiming fast and pulling and pumping the rounds as quickly and fast as he could. The first smashed into its chest stopping it’s momentum through the air. The slug knocked it off balance midair and the second third and fourth were aimed directly for its torso Shaun was relentless in the fact that he did not want it to rise. His brutal assault on it left nothing but the neck bone sticking out from in between its shoulders. The slugs went through the heart that was still pumping even though it had already exploded the day it Turned. It landed on its back convulsing on the ground scrambling to get up. Ellie pulled her forty-five caliber pistol placing a laser sighted shot through its head, dropping it back to the ground where it lay to rest forever.

 

Shaun screamed to her motioning with his arm to come to him. He was holding the door open with his foot while trying to take as many of the Turned coming over the wall out with his rifle, his still smoking shotgun laid empty next to him on the ground. He would not go until everyone that could be saved had been. He wanted to make sure that as many of the young soldiers and new recruits made it to safety as possible. The evacuation plan was well known, if a group made it to the top of the wall than all was lost and it was time to get the fuck out of dodge. He screamed to them as they ran through the doors motioning to speed it up to get moving. “Head to the basement, get to the basement wait for no one, we know what to do and how to do it, go, go, go, go!!”

 

Ellie ran to him thinking only of the fact that he had been on that portion of the wall just a minute ago and the only thing that had saved him was forcing him to go down below to rest. One thing that did not escape her were the two young men who were now dead because of her choices. “Shaun I don’t know what would have happened if—”

 

Shaun put a finger to her lips and shook his head no pulling her in through the door with him and slamming it behind hard. They sprinted down the stairwell going past the blinking lights that would turn the building into Christmas in July in no time. As fast as they could the younger soldiers sprinted down the steps for everything that they were worth. Shaun and Ellie knew damn well that the door wasn’t going to hold for long it might as well have been a shower curtain with the strength that they possessed.

 

Shaun watched as he went down the first flight of stairs looking back to see the door’s steel buckle until it disappeared from the frame the full moon shone through the door’s frame. Shaun ran peering over the edge of the railing to see how far ahead the rest of his squad was. He was screaming at the top of his lungs for everyone to keep running. As he peered a growling came within an inch of his face and he jumped back seeing a Turned come flying past him. He looked up to see a mess of them scrambling through the door fighting to be first. Some didn’t have the patience for the stairs and began jumping from the top trying to make up the distance. Pain was a feeling long forgotten to them. They reached for the youths as they fell near them. They landed on railings breaking their spines and legs, the lucky ones smashed their skulls open putting an end to their never ending existence.

 

Shaun and Ellie were the last to make it down to the end of the steps everyone else had already disappeared through the hole to the sewer tunnels. They jumped over the Turned who had beaten them down by jumping from the top. The ones who had not smashed their skulls reached for them with any limb that they had not broken in their plummet. The two veteran teens jumped over them and through the small opening pulling the door shut behind them and securing it shut. They stared at each other and at the door listening they could hear echoes from the soldiers who had already made it to the space running for everything that they were worth. Shaun pulled out the remote transmitter and Ellie nodded they hit the button to set off the timer for C-4 that they had planted among the ground level.

 

*****

 

The sewers were at times a place of safety. The downside was that they were tight and narrow, but the upside was that the Turned did not dwell in them as their only memories of where to get meals were in buildings, homes, and on the streets above. Shaun and Ellie counted to thirty knowing it was coming and wanted to be anywhere but here when it happened. The C-4 exploded taking out the support walls and imploding the building on top of the Turned. A stream of thick dust flowed through and filled the tunnel making breathing and visibility almost impossible. The bullets that had been fired for hours and the explosion of the building left the two leaders ears ringing and near useless.

 

Shaun had a hand on Ellie’s shoulder making sure he wouldn’t lose her in the blindness, as always he was willing and ready to take the blunt of any attack that came from the end of the tunnel. If worse came to worse he had a jacket full of grenades that he would happily pull the pin on If it meant that he could take as many of those bastards with him as possible. He heard a low growling coming from behind them they pushed harder and faster for the edge of the tunnel. Shots would start firing soon if they didn’t make it, he felt for his radio clicking the button and getting no response the depth of the tunnel was to deep and the signal was too weak. He could hear people screaming ahead and he started blinking his flashlight to warn them that someone was coming. When they made it to the group everyone ran up staring at them in awe. They were covered from head to toe in a thick layer of white dust from the building, Shaun pulled off his bandana that he had around his mouth as did Ellie.

 

Shaun looked at his watch knowing very well had they been a minute later that the group would have started firing down the tunnel. Survival was the top priority and it didn’t matter who was left behind, Shaun knew that well, because this was the very rule that he had beaten into everyone’s memories time and time again. A new recruit skinny and frail who looked even smaller in comparison to holding his automatic rifle opened his mouth to speak to Shaun. Shaun noticed the eager young man he shook his head no holding up a finger. “Shut up everyone.”

 

 

 

 

They all stared at the leader each of them knowing the man before them did nothing and said nothing that wasn’t required. He made a motion with one finger to wait and the group did the same as well. Shaun looked at the group estimating quickly maybe 20 of the 50 men had made it down the tunnel. Unfortunately for the group Shaun realized these were pretty good survival rates considering he had just dropped a big ass building on top of them all.

 

Shaun walked up near the tunnels edge listening; trying to make the invisible become visible again. He could hear the growling and that was all that his senses needed to confirm that they weren’t alone. “Some of them must have survived the blast.”

 

He pointed for the metal ladder that was on the other side of the small space pointing to get up it. He pulled up his rifle checking the side of the magazine seeing he had a fresh thirty round clip in it. Ellie knelt down beside him as always ready to take on whatever they could together.

 

The two of them were always the first and the last to leave a war zone. The troops did not need to be told a second time to go. They raced up the ladder to the backup bunker where they would spend the night and regroup. In the morning they would follow Shaun to a new spot that he deemed worthy of being able to call home for a few days until the scent of themselves brought the Turned yet again.

 

Shaun waited his blood pumping away staring at the tunnel for what seemed an eternity. Ellie laughed kneeling next to him breaking the concentration of Shaun. Laughter wasn’t something that was plentiful around here as people didn’t have much to laugh about during these dark ages. “Something on your mind Ellie?”

 

Ellie actually snorted peering at Shaun remembering the young clean cut teenager who did not have scars up and down his face and a mixture of dried blood and soot from explosions as his regular street clothes. No he had a short clean haircut back of course when there was a barber alive to do it, and a school sweatshirt. “I was thinking back to the day we met. Do you remember what caused the end of the world was you thinking that one boy was going to hurt me, and it was in a school of all places? I mean if you’d have been some regular prick and just kept going, there would be like four billion more people still alive today.”

 

Shaun thought back to the woman who was just barely a teen at the time who couldn’t assemble and then break down an assault rifle. He laughed to something he wasn’t sure he could still do. “Yeah I remember, I thought for sure it was going to get me a date with you. God bless dear old dad.”

 

“Your dad had every bit of good intentions it wasn’t his fault about what happened. That son of a bitch Rogers is the one who should burn in hell.”

 

“You know what good intentions and a dollar get you?”

 

Ellie laughed, “Yeah a dollar, which isn’t worth much more than the good intentions, right Major Fox?”

 

Shaun shook his head. “God I wish there was a reason to call me that, if the military hadn’t collapsed so quickly after the Turned had taken over we would probably have double the population. Hell maybe we’d even still have running water and some sort of civilized democracy instead of a fend for yourself mentality.”

 

As Ellie tried to speak a head appeared lunging from the dusty haze straight towards her, its mouth wide opened with yellow teeth. Shaun seeing this shoved her off balance and to the side. He put up a heavy military grade boot connecting with its jaw and knocking it backwards only momentarily. It lunged for Shaun, who stabbed it under the chin up through its skull and out the top of its brain with the rifles bayonet. To be sure he fired one shot blowing out the back of its skull. Shaun put a foot on its shoulder dislodging the knife from the Turned and scrambled backwards towards Ellie. As another one appeared Shaun let go of his rifle pulling his pistol from his hip and blowing a small hole through its skull that exploded from the back. You could hear it whistle its way down the tunnel. The two raised their rifle taking out as many as they could. Shaun pulled a grenade motioning to Ellie to cover up. When the grenade was at a two count before detonation he hurled it down the tunnel and the sound was deafening. Shaun grabbed Ellie who was in a daze pushing her up the ladder one hand on her ass to keep her going the other on the ladder himself.

 

****

 

The soldiers helped them as they came up the ladder taking their gear and weapons. The new recruits stared in awe at the man whom it seemed could not be killed. A light blood trickle came from his ears. They knew if it was his eyes that he had been Turned and that he would need to be dealt with. They stared at his arms as well, the other immediate sign to tell if he was one of them was missing skin from the first bite of flesh they took was almost always that of their own. They tightened down the hatch moving from one building to the next until they were in the back up bunker where a portion of goods was left.

 

The young soldier who had tried to talk to Shaun earlier came up a second time eager to speak to the man. He had heard stories of him for the last few years. Each one was wilder depicting him as a man that was immune to the bites, who could take the Turned on with his bare hands and win. Shaun turned around eying the kid and nodded his head. “Sir I just wanted to ask you where we are going to go next, I mean we are after a cure or something right. Your dad he was a scientist?”

 

Shaun just stared at the kid, he pointed to one of the Turned who they had put down when they entered this building originally as a backup shelter. The boy nodded looking at it, Shaun walked over pulling the bayonet knife from his rifle and knelt down next to it. The other new recruits followed in closely staring at the man who had no signs of a weak stomach. Shaun stabbed the knife down into its chest deep and brought the knife all the way down the Turned’s sternum. The group all took in a deep breath as the stench of rotting flesh was unbearable. Shaun pulled the knife back out wiping the sludge on its pants and pointing to different organs which were no longer intact or weren’t much more than a black sludge. He pointed at where the heart used to be. In its place was at best a quarter of a heart that until a bullet by his rifle had pierced the monsters skull had still been pumping even in its mangled state. Shaun looked up at the group realizing this was probably the first time that they had seen something like this and anything like this so closely.

 

“Look here class, there is no cure, and the only way to avoid getting this is to not breathe in the spray from X-74 and to not get bitten, scratched, or share any blood with the infected. You can ask for forgiveness if you make a mistake, but it won’t save you from having a bullet put in your skull if you make a mistake that turns you into one of them.”

 

Shaun looked up at the group each of them looking ill. The harsh realization of what they had to deal with on almost a daily basis was pushing their young minds past the brink that they could handle. He peered over seeing Ellie resting in the corner, she was making a drop it down gesture with her hand. Shaun took a second gaze seeing that every kid here was looking at the specimen in front of them praying that it wouldn’t be them. He thought of the original group that had gone up to his family cabin when the shit had hit the fan, all of them now were either in a better place or had abandoned the group convinced staying with Shaun and Ellie and their never ending battle would wind up with them dead or worse Turned.

 

Shaun stood covering the man again, trying to think of something, anything that would make the small group feel at ease. It was not something that was his strong suit. He held up the rifle for all to see. “They might have numbers, they might be stronger, but they are not the dominant race. We know that a bullet to the head will kill them, we know that without legs we can chop their damn heads off we can win this battle! We can take back the continent!”

 

The young man who had originally been so optimistic asked. “How are we going to do that?”

 

“We blow the son of a bitches up.”

 

Everyone just stared at Shaun who was confident, thought that he was insane. But he had been thinking of this plan for a while. He came up with the idea after going to the last military base. It had been stockpiled with plastic explosive enough to make what they had done today look like a small firecracker. “We can lure them into following us and I don’t mean just a few I mean we go through the city, we find cars that still have gas in them and will start and we get them to follow us. We find the biggest building in the city and we blow the son of a bitch up.”

 

Ellie was standing now, not sure what to think about this. “What building are you talking about Shaun? We’ve been here for months you have your pick from what I can tell of big ass buildings lying around just sitting empty with the exception of the Turned that were either stuck in there or who were still looking for a fresh meal.”

 

“I was leaning towards the Regan building, its big enough if we stack the walls with the

C-4 that we can bring the entire thing down around them.”

 

The group just stared at Shaun, Ellie the only one confident enough to talk back to him or question him nodded her head slowly in a natural for her sarcastic tone asked. “So…. we go get some cars and we get all the explosives we can carry and then we get every turned in DC to follow us into this building armed and ready to have an explosion big enough to be seen from outer space?”

 

Shaun who was more than use to Ellie’s sarcasm nodded his head. “Exactly.” Offering no further explanation of the plan for the night.

 

*****

 

He pushed through the doors carrying his pack where he found a cot and dived into a restless night filled with ghosts of the past of more people than he knew the names of. Ellie came in lying next to him only able to sleep when she knew he was safe. He was almost never safe and he almost never got the chance to rest like he was tonight.

 

Shaun awoke when she came in. He couldn’t fall back asleep but was able to relax feeling the same way about Ellie. She had rested her hand on his chest and breathed deeply. Shaun pulled out the last thing he would ever receive from his father besides heartache. It was crumpled nd had been folded a thousand times.

 

Shaun this is the impossible letter to write. I don’t know how to put this into words, I don’t know if you will ever choose to forgive me? By the time you read this it will be too late and there will be nothing that anyone can do about this. I can only pray, pray to god one day they will be stopped. If you choose to tell Ellie that I was responsible for this than that is your choice. I don’t have time to make peace with everyone that will be harmed today by this disease.

 

Shaun read until the end laying the letter down looking at Ellie thinking of how much happier the rest of the world would be if he had just been the guy in the hall who just kept walking. But he knew that he couldn’t live without her in his life even if it meant an existence of blood, death, and loss.

 

Over the next week the young crew of all that America had left fighting for it gathered the supplies needed. Had there been astronauts still in outer space they would have been able to see the explosion from their space craft.

 

 

The Orphans Brigade

 

By M. Evans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Orphans Brigade

  • Author: mike Evans
  • Published: 2015-10-14 17:05:13
  • Words: 4843
The Orphans Brigade The Orphans Brigade