Authors: Norman Christof
“The orders were kill or capture. I’ll make that decision when I come to it.”
Alex wasn’t happy with Chaz’s answer as they approached their SUV, but before he could say anything else bullets ripped through the air around them. Windows shattered and car alarms started going off. The four of them dropped instantly to the ground. Chaz and Alex did so out of instinct, but Andreas and Leekasha dropped because bullets tore through both their chests.
Adventures in Shopping
More shots rang out in the now emptied parking lot. One whizzed by Alex’s ear, while another clipped Chaz on the shoulder. They both scrambled under the SUV for protection as Leekasha and Andreas lay bleeding in the parking spot next to them.
“Jesus, Colonel! Who the hell is firing at us? Are there other freaks on the loose that we don’t know about? Christa wouldn’t shoot us, would she?”
Checking the blood coming from his shoulder, Chaz said, “Not likely. Why would they shoot their own kind? On second thought, this one is kind of a prick, so maybe they would.”
“Are they dead, Colonel?”
“They should be from where those shots hit them, but you never know with these freaks. They always seem to have some trick up their sleeves. Did you notice how quickly their wounds healed?”
“I did. That can’t be a good thing.”
“It’s certainly not good for us. Keep an eye out. We need to get a bead on whoever is shooting at us. I think there are only two shooters. Otherwise, we’d all be lying out there bleeding.”
Whispering, Alex replied, “I’ve got boots over to my side, Colonel. Two pairs. See them?”
Chaz could see two pairs of boots moving in their direction from under the parked vehicles.
“We gotta move, kid. Follow me and keep low.”
They both scrambled on their bellies under several vehicles till they’d put some distance between themselves and their SUV. Alex kept looking back to keep check on the boots of their attackers.
“Colonel, they’ve stopped. They’re standing right next to the zombies.”
They could both see boots walking around Andreas and Leekasha. Neither of the zombie bodies were moving. The boots kicked at the bodies, then the attackers poked at them with their rifle muzzles.
Chaz looked to Alex. “Stay here.”
Chaz wriggled out from under the car and half stood to peer through the windows at what was going on. After a few seconds, he dropped back down and joined Alex.
“There are only two of them. They’re talking on their headsets with someone. We need to move quickly. You stay on this side and work your way around using the cover of the cars to get closer. I’m going to move around the other side to flank them.”
“Colonel, we should just go. They’re probably waiting for new orders, so we have time to get away.”
“No damn way, kid. I came here to get those two freaks and Christa. They’re our best shot at finding her, dead or alive. I’m not running away from this.”
“Colonel. Those are government soldiers. You’ve been betrayed. You know that, right? There’s probably backup coming for those bodies.”
“Kid, I don’t care who they are. Right now, all I know is running away from this takes us further from Christa. That’s not a direction I plan on moving in. Now get your ass up and do what I told you.”
Alex followed Chaz’s lead and crawled out from under the car. Chaz moved swiftly between vehicles and worked his way around and across the lot. Alex worked his way closer to their attackers. He could see one of them still talking on his headset. There seemed to be some confusion as to what they were going to do next. Alex stopped next to their SUV. The soldiers were right on the other side. As Alex peeked around the back, he could see both soldiers.
Suddenly, the soldier standing guard turned and shot the other soldier in the head before turning his own gun on himself. In the blink of an eye both soldiers were lying dead on the ground. Alex came around the SUV before he realized that Leekasha and Andreas had both gotten to their knees. Leekasha was looking straight at Alex, and he heard a woman’s voice inside his head. It told him that everything was OK, and that he could relax now. It beckoned him to come closer and help her.
Alex moved around the SUV and could see Andreas was looking in the other direction. Chaz was slowly walking towards them with his weapon lowered. The voice in Alex’s head urged him forward, telling him to release Leekasha. It promised not to hurt him. Alex fought the voice. Something didn’t feel right about this. His brain told him to run, but his feet kept moving closer.
Leekasha looked towards Andreas. The pain in her chest was intense, but subsiding. Andreas’ wounds were fully healed, but hers weren’t. She was getting tired. Controlling Alex and healing her wounds was sapping her energy.
“Andreas,” she said. “I can’t hold him much longer. Controlling him is too hard.”
Both Chaz and Alex raised their weapons and pointed them at each other. Andreas couldn’t help but smile.
“How does it feel, Colonel, when your body won’t do what your most base instinct tells it to? We may all be animals, but we still crave control. It’s what separates us from the rest of the animals. How does it feel knowing you’re about to kill your friend over there?”
Chaz’s arm was shaking but he couldn’t lower it. Beads of sweat ran into his eyes, but he couldn’t wipe them away or take his eyes off of Chaz in his sights. Alex managed to loosen his grip on his weapon and throw it out of his reach. Then Leekasha collapsed, her whole body heaving, trying to suck in big breaths of air.
“I’m sorry, Andreas, I’m losing him,” she said in between gasps.
Alex looked into Chaz’s eyes as they widened. He could see Chaz’s finger slowly put pressure on the trigger. Alex dove backwards out of the way as the bullet fired and went through the windshield of the vehicle behind him. Andreas, angered by Leekasha’s loss of control, lost focus on Chaz long enough for him to yell, “Run, boy, get the hell out of here now!”
Alex tore off across the parking lot as Andreas regained control of Chaz.
“Just give me a few minutes, Andreas, and I’ll get him again,” Leekasha said.
“It’s too late for that now. He’s already out of your weak, pathetic range.” Andreas turned to look at Chaz. “It doesn’t really matter though. We’ve got the big fish here now. This should make things a lot easier. We’re going for a ride, Colonel. Let’s all get back into your fancy car, shall we?”
Christa paced the docks nervously, keeping an eye out for anyone that came off the freighter. She doubled checked the dock number and the freighter’s name in the dark. It wasn’t easy to make out in the rain with no moonlight, but it was the right one. The sign read Dock 125 and the freighter’s name, Cosmic Muffin, was written in rusted red lettering.
What the hell kind of name is Cosmic Muffin? This is all like some kind of bad joke. I thought tweaking Abby’s head to get Chaz’s attention was stupid enough, but this really tops that. I need to stay away from the water. This has to end better than my last trip on a boat.
Three people appeared at the top of the gangplank on the ship, and Christa stepped out of the shadows to stand under the light. The biggest of the three came down the gangplank to meet Christa. One of them stayed at the top, and the third moved cautiously halfway down the plank and waited there.
The man wore a dark hooded raincoat and old jeans. “My name is Marcus,” he said. “It’s an honor to meet you, Christa … Mother of Them All.”
Christa grimaced and answered, “Don’t call me that. Just Christa is fine. Do you have them?”
“Yes, we got them both, but it wasn’t easy. We lost one of our contacts on the inside during the attempt.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. And Caius? Is he here as well?”
“Yes, but he won’t be going with you.”
“That wasn’t part of the deal. I need all of them.”
“Caius would prefer not to travel with other members of his family today. He needs time to contemplate the meaning of this new development. At first he did not believe that the Mother of … my apologies, that you were interested in the other members of his family.”
“Let Caius know that it’s important that I meet with him right now.”
“I’m sorry …”
“Look, I don’t have time for this. Bring out Abby and Shax then. I’ll be leaving with them now.”
Marcus motioned to the man at the top of the gangplank, and two more figures appeared out of the dark. By the time they reached the bottom of the gangplank, Christa was sure it was Abby and Shax. They had Abby restrained and she was muttering obscenities. Shax followed reluctantly from a distance. She said nothing.
“The mother was violent when we took her, so we sedated her to prevent her from injuring herself. I’m sure you’ll be able to keep her under control once the drugs wear off.”
“I want the girl restrained as well.”
“The girl has been no problem. I assure you she’s as meek as a lamb.”
“She might be now, but she might just change her mind when she figures out what I’m up to. Restrain her.”
“As you request.” He motioned to the man halfway up the plank to get restraints for Shax. “Now for your part of the deal, Christa. You promised to release the zombies in our hold from the drug. The same way you did for the others.”
Marcus argued. “I don’t understand. That was our agreement.”
“Yeah, well, the deal was you deliver all three of Sheperd’s family members to me and I release your zombies. When Caius is ready to come see me, bring the zombies along and I’ll complete my end of the deal.”
“Perhaps you could release just a couple of them then, as a token for our partial delivery.”
“This is not negotiable, and I don’t accept partial payment. You need to light a fire under Caius or whatever it is you people do when someone needs convincing. When he shows up, I’ll do what you ask. Not before.”
“Yes, Christa, I understand. I will have a conversation with Caius personally. The Freeze is an honorable organization, so you will get what we promised you.”
Christa half smiled and turned towards Abby and Shax. “Let’s go, ladies. We’ve got some work to do.”
Neither one moved or made eye contact with her. Christa grabbed each firmly by the arm and rushed them off in the direction of the car. She could feel all three men watching her back as she left. Christa forcibly moved the group as quickly as she could.
Nutcases. Thank goodness they gave me an out with Caius being so difficult. I was hoping he might pull something like that. Plan B would have gotten pretty ugly. Now maybe the grumpy old bastard will listen.
“Andreas, we don’t need to kill humans to get what we want,” Leekasha argued.
“I’m not saying we have to, girl, I’m just not going to let that restrict what we do. We’re above all these people. Just check out the colonel back there.” Andreas nodded towards Chaz sitting in the back seat of the SUV. “He’s not even tied up, and he’s doing absolutely nothing to escape. He can’t do anything when I’m in his head. I’m getting so good, shit, I can even control him while driving this bitchin’ SUV around town.”
“That’s not the point, Andreas. It’s not about us being better than anyone else. It’s about making things right. It’s our responsibility. You said Christa looked for you for six years. She’s been trying all that time to make things right for people like us.”
Chaz started to say something from the back seat, but Andreas silenced him.
“You see that?” Andreas boasted. “Do you know who that guy is in the back seat there?”
“He’s a soldier they sent after us. What’s the big deal? You said he could help us get to the regent.”
“Jeez, girl, don’t you know anything? That’s Colonel Chaz Sheperd. This guy is a bona fide war hero. He’s been fighting freaks like us for over twenty years now. The damn army thinks this guy’s a rock star. He was a regular celebrity a few years ago, before he fell into some coma. He was barely out of his coma when they put his ass back to work. That’s how much they think of him.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Reading, girl … you should try it. I was checking out all those files they got back there. Sheperd is one of the few people alive to ever get to be in the same room as the regent. Now look at him. He’s locked up in the back of my limo under my spell. It’s driving him crazy and there’s nothing he can do about it.”
“OK, look, Andreas. This is all great, but we can’t do this alone. We both agree that we need help, right?”
“Yeah, absolutely. We’re going to need help getting to the regent.”
“Right, and it’s important that we start trying to help our people.”
“Of course. As long as they help us out in return.”
“Great, so let’s get to it. We need to find a place with lots of zombies that we can release from the drug.”
“We just passed a school back there; let’s turn around and go there. That’ll be great, watching all those kids freak out when we free our comrades.” Andreas flashed Leekasha a big smile.
“No, no damn way. We’re not putting all those kids at risk. This is my first time trying, and I’m not getting a bunch of kids killed in the process. Let’s just head outside the city a bit and find someplace a little more secluded. There are some plants on the outskirts. It’s isolated, and there won’t be any kids around. Plus, they should have some big zombies working there. We could use a little muscle going up against the regent.” Leekasha looked Andreas up and down and grinned. “Not like you’d be any help in that department.”
“Watch yourself, girl. I don’t need muscle to do what I need to do.
Andreas parked the black SUV, taking up two of the three visitor spots at the plant. Chaz lay unconscious and handcuffed in the back seat. Andreas stepped out first and Leekasha hurried to catch up as he opened the main door.
“Remember,” she said. “We only have room for four in the van, so no more than that.”
Andreas chuckled. “We could take five if we throw the war hero in the trunk, or better yet strap him to the roof.”
“C’mon, Andreas, be serious. This is important. Remember who we’re going after.”
Fifteen minutes later, Chaz woke from the motion of being jerked into an upright sitting position and the sound of the SUV doors slamming shut.
“Hey, Colonel, time to open your eyes. Me and the girlfriend got something we want to show you.”
“I am not and never will be your girlfriend,” Leekasha answered.
Chaz opened his eyes to an SUV full of strangers. Strangers except for Leekasha and Andreas sitting in the front seat. Beside and behind him were four big zombies, all at least six foot two in height. They sat there motionless, still under the influence of the Pacize drug.
“I wanted to release them from the drug in front of their controllers, but the girlfriend here,” Andreas put his arm around Leekasha, and she brushed it away just as quickly, “thought that might be a bad idea. We compromised and brought them out here to do our little test with you. If they don’t eat you when they come around, then you pass and get to go on to the next round. What do ya think? Sounds like fun, right?”
“Pacize may be a cruel punishment for some, but jackasses like you deserve to be on it whether you’re a zombie or not,” Chaz said.
“Ah, there you go, that’s the spirit. So, let’s get on with our little science experiment here. I wanted to bring all four of our new friends here back at once, but little Leekasha thought it wouldn’t be fair to you if things got out of hand. Especially since you’re kind of surrounded and all. OK. Let’s get started. Leekasha, you’re up.”
“I’m sorry, Colonel,” she said. “This is not ideal but it’s the best I could get him to agree to.”
Leekasha focused on the man sitting next to her on Chaz’s right. At first, she just closed her eyes and listened. Leekasha could hear him struggling on the inside, but there was no way to get to him.
Andreas said, “Look for a gap, or an open door, or a hole in the wall. That’s where his mind is separated from his body. He needs you to bridge that gap or fill the hole. He’ll help, if you show him where it is.”
Leekasha tried for another five minutes before Andreas got impatient and entered the man’s mind as well.
Leekasha sensed him and said, “Get the hell out, I need to learn how to do this on my own.”
Andreas retreated and waited. Shortly, the man started to move on his own. At first he strained on the seatbelt and started yelling, “No, no, no … let me out. It’s not my fault. Let me out.”
Then he saw Chaz sitting next to him and bared his teeth to sink them into Chaz. He clawed at the seatbelt release, but was so frantic he couldn’t free himself. Chaz tried to push himself away, but the other zombie impeded his efforts.
“Andreas!” Leekasha cried out. “Help me with him, I can’t control him.”
Andreas sneered at a struggling Chaz for a second, then focused his mind on the man. Instantly he relaxed and almost passed out.
“Asshole,” Chaz said. “You could have helped her sooner. There was no need for that.”
“Hey,” Andreas replied. “She said she wanted to do it on her own. I was just following the little lady’s request.”
The second and third zombie were revived without incident. Both Leekasha and Andreas revived the second one together, and Leekasha brought back the third one on her own. She was getting stronger already. The fourth zombie was a problem. It took considerable effort from both Leekasha and Andreas to bring him out. Once he did come out, there was no controlling him. His skin went pale, and open wounds began forming on his face and arms. When he tried going for the third revived zombie, Andreas shot him in the head. Andreas pulled the last failed zombie out of the truck and backed over his head a few times for good measure, then turned to the others and said, “Well, it looks like we have our team. Let’s go hunting.”