Read Life Among the Dead (Book 4): The End Online

Authors: Daniel Cotton

Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse

Life Among the Dead (Book 4): The End

Section XII: Survival of the Fittest

1

Warriors wait in the dark. Time is irrelevant in the tense anticipation of the impending clash, mere seconds stretch into hours. They can sense the enemy is close and equally aware of them, thirsty for blood.

Lights flare on above, blinding at first, it’s time to brawl. The opposition reacts in thunderous unison, greeting the flesh they have come for, shaking the rafters with their noise.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the land of MILFs and honies, the Wilkes Arena is proud to present our main event. The lovely ladies of the Women’s Flat Track Derby League are going to duke it out on the oval ring for us,” an amplified voice announces over the rising din. “Paid for in part by; Ultramart, Ener-Aid, and Greenback Beer, the better brew. Let’s get down and der-beee!”

As the echoing voice stretches the last word, the contenders take to the track for the initial lap. The teams play to the crowd with waves and provocative gestures to illicit the favor of the cheering mass. The women pose in their scant uniforms consisting of safety equipment, short-shorts, miniskirts, and tank tops, all leaving little to the imagination. Spectators whoop and boo their split appreciation or distain for the teams rolling past on quad skates. The home team gets all the accolades, the visitors receive nothing but hate.

Among the many teams in the fledgling league’s inaugural year of existence, Man’s Ruin from Bedlam, Massachusetts has become notorious for their brutality and complete dominance of the sport. Captain and star player, Rocky Roadkill, leads the league in penalties. She takes in the scorn being cast down from the stands and lets it fuel her like a poisonous plant taking in the sun. She throws up twin middle fingers to the jeering spectators, turning on her skates to make sure she gets every last scowling face.

“Rocky Roadkill of Man’s Ruin isn’t making many fans here in Breckinridge, is she Gene?”

“Not with antics like that, Jim,” the disembodied voice of Gene concurs. “She should take a lesson from her Pivot, Killer B. That player just seems to light up the track, doesn’t she?”

“She certainly does, Gene. Look how she blows kisses despite the wrath being stirred up by her lead Jammer and Captain. The undefeated, Man’s Ruin, is coming fresh from their victory against the San Diego Chickenheads where they turned the Viejas Arena into a USDA certified slaughterhouse. Unless our own Pornstar Galactica can stop them, they’ll continue north to Waterloo to compete for the title against the Sleazy Riders,”

Having made the rounds and greeted the audience, the teams take their places within the center of the track. Pads are adjusted and laces are tightened to the delight of the men and women, mostly the men, watching. Forged in the wake of the failed Lingerie Football League, and in the renewed interest in Roller Derby, this new diversion has gained popularity and is now being televised, albeit on the upper, lesser known sports networks that are found most commonly when hitting the ‘last’ button on a man’s remote. Most of the contenders were cherry picked from the junior teams and local associations across the country, or recruited from Olympic rejects and Ice Capade hopefuls. Skill is secondary to looks. Man’s Ruin is the exception since they were already an established team. Scouts came for Killer B but she wouldn’t join without her friends.

“KB, take first jam,” Rocky tells her Pivot. The most seasoned member of the league isn’t getting any younger, and feeling their last bout. She has been in the derby circuit long before establishing the current line-up, long before most of the ladies were even born.

“You all right, Rocky?” the sweetheart of the team asks, named Killer B for her attributes; body, blonde hair, and blue eyes.

“Just want to rest up for Waterloo,” the Captain answers knowing victory is in the bag. “Don’t worry. You’re going to be great.”

Rocky squeezes a mouthful out of her sports bottle, embossed with the Ener-Aid logo though it doesn’t contain even a trace of the hydrating beverage. The gin eases her sore muscles as she watches her team take their places at the start.

“It looks as if Killer B will be taking the star for Man’s Ruin for our first jam, squaring off against Pornstar Galactica’s Thai Fighter,” Jim announces.

“Thai Fighter actually looks a little relieved, Jim,” Gene points out. The Asian derby girl relaxes in her shiny silver uniform, reminiscent of 1950s science fiction. “Rocky Roadkill just has an intimidating presence that can only come from a woman that lives and breathes the flat track, a surgical perfection that can just be described as poetic. What most do as a hobby she has made her life and now she’s in the majors.”

Majors my ass
, Rocky scoffs at the statement.
There’s no competition in this Cheesecake Factory
. It may have been Killer B the new league wanted but it was a juggernaut they received when they signed the untamable team. With Rocky at the helm of Man’s Ruin, no other team stands a chance at victory.

“I didn’t think you’d be riding the pine,” a suited man says to Rocky upon approach.

“Just saving myself for the championship,” Rocky says without interest as she sips deeply from her bottle.

“Glad to see you’re promoting the sponsor,” he points out her use of the endorsed container she drinks from.

“Hmm. It’s so good,” she exaggerates her enjoyment, smiling behind the firewater.

“Right. Let’s just make sure you aren’t covering the logo.”

“Why are you talking to me?” Rocky asks without concern over the man’s status in the league’s hierarchy.

“I was hoping you had come to a conclusion over what we had discussed.”

“Can you be more specific please? You say a lot of shit, I half listen. That isn’t really the basis of a ‘discussion’.”

“We…
I
had talked about you hanging up your skates and just coaching. You’re over-extending yourself; coaching, captaining, and lead Jammer. That’s a lot of hats to wear.”

“I’m not really one for hats,” she admits.

“You know what I mean,” he declares pointedly. “I’ve been talking to the other commissioners…”

“Commissioners,” she laughs the word. “Frat boys that outgrew date raping co-eds, and decided to do this for kicks?”

“If you hate it so much, why do you do it?”

“For my girls. I told them they’d be great one day and I meant it. That means I need to be out there to ensure victory.”

“The other commissioners and I would rather see Pornstar Galactica moving on to the championship…” he quickly says.

“We are not taking a dive,” Rocky firmly states. She squeezes another blast of gin into her mouth, imagining her hand was crushing the man’s head. Rocky has been in the circuits for a long time, she’s had the misfortune of being a part of leagues that were completely without merit like professional wrestling; scripted bouts, preordained winners, and lacking in any sense of actual competition.

“You and your girls will be compensated.”

“There’s the first whistle,” Jim announces after the action commences. “Thai Fighter takes an early lead. Man’s Ruin’s Killer B is not far behind. The pack is set into motion and our game is underway!”

“Everything I do is for my girls, keeping them strong.” Rocky stands, her skates give her a height advantage on the man. He backs up, intimidated. Even if not for her unpredictable behavior and renowned rage he’d be scared. Her amber eyes lock onto his, hypnotic like a cobra about to strike. He’s scared and she loves it, it’s more intoxicating than the gin she still tastes in her mouth. “My bitches are fighters.”

“Some fast footwork by Killer B and she takes the lead as they make it full circle!” Gene excitedly reports.

“Ooh! A hip check from Thai Fighter and Killer B is down!” Jim adds.

Rocky’s anger is redirected to the track with a snap of her head where her friend is on the ground, the pivot is sliding over the glossy floor, fighting to regain her footing.

“Down but not out, Jim!” Gene says as Killer B regains her footing and skates after Thai Fighter, quickly recovering the ground she lost. “It looks like Killer B has entered the pack first and is racking up points!”

“It’s just…” the commissioner stammers at Rocky Roadkill. “You’re the villains. That’s how the audience sees you and your team. It would be better for the league if Pornstar Galactica or the Sleazy Riders win it all.”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” Rocky contends. She gives her pivot the signal to end the jam early.

The commissioner is shocked. This is in no way how he saw this going. He is speechless as he watches the woman don her helmet, sliding is over her short spikey hair. Rocky adjusts her pads, unlike most of the girls in the league with their Victoria’s Secret model bodies, Rocky Roadkill’s is ripped with muscles sculpted from hard living, battle, and strain.

“It looks like the captain of Man’s Ruin is calling in Killer B for a substitution. She will be donning the star and her Pivot will be taking the bench,” Gene comments. The crowd boos emphatically over the news.

“She’s fast,” Killer B warns her teammate over what she’s in for.

“She better hope so,” Rocky retorts under her breath, “for her sake.”

“I’m glad we’re finally seeing eye-to-eye, Rocky,” the commissioner says with relief.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” the rough edged derby girl laughs. “All I said is ‘you’re right’. We are the villains.”

“But…?”

The crowd is on their feet to shout their disapproval over one another. The officials chastise the audience for the trash and beer cups they throw at the track.

“We’ll see who you’re cheering for when this is over, assholes,” Rocky tells the angry mob though they can’t hear her over their own thundering roar.

“We are moments away from our next jam, awaiting a slight delay so the track can be cleared of debris,” Jim announces to fill the gap.

“Thai Fighter looks nervous, and with good reason, she’s about to go up against a woman that’s drawn more blood than the American Red Cross.”

“There’s our next whistle, Gene! Thai Fighter makes a fast break with the swiftness of a Jedi, but Rocky Roadkill is on her six and not letting up. She’s about to overtake Thai… Oh! Thai Fighter takes a nasty elbow and she’s down! Rocky Roadkill leaves her in the dust to enter the pack. Thai Fighter is staying down… Jesus! Is she all right?”

Splayed out on the track, her silver miniskirt giving the audience an eyeful, Thai holds her face in trembling hands. Blood trickles from between her fingers. Officials on skates wave flags to call off the current jam and detour the pack around the fallen player. Medics are on the scene to see the extent of the injury and pull Thai Fighter off the track.

The crowd has gone silent for the first time since the lights came on and the commenters must fill the void.

“Well, Gene, it looks as if Thai Fighter is going to be fine, but she will be sitting out the rest of the match. Her Pivot is going to take the reins, XXX-Wing is about to embark on her never ending mission. The refs have finished conferring over the legalities of Rocky Roadkill’s elbow use. Still in our first year of existence, the officials are working out the kinks, so to speak,” Jim nervously laughs.

“They appear to have made their ruling and it looks as if Rocky Roadkill will be sitting out the next few jams. I suspect Ms. Roadkill only took to the track in retribution for the otherwise legal move made on Killer B. This woman is nothing if not protective of her teammates.”

“Perhaps, a little overprotective, Jim.”

A bloody faced Thai Fighter is escorted off the track by her Captain, receiving a slow clap of approval from the stands when she raises her hand to let them all know she will be fine. Rocky smiles at the sight as she casually glides to the penalty box, taking the time to retrieve her sports bottle, all the while clapping for her opponent’s resilience. One triumphant stance before sitting incites a fresh roar from the crowd in her favor, she has spilled blood for their amusement and they lap it up.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Killer B scolds before resuming her role as jammer.

“Just get out there and win this so I can go to the hotel and fuck something already,” Rocky orders. Killer B complies, rolling to the line as Rocky happily calls to her. “We’re gonna be great!”

2

 

“Lock up your husbands, ladies!” a spikey haired woman announces from on top of the bar at the Breckinridge Hammond Suites. “Man’s Ruin is in town and ready to fuck!”

She’s surrounded by younger women in similar black and white miniskirts, pouring shots for her friends and any man brave enough to approach. Frustrated staff from the front desk are entering yet again to attempt what the bartender has failed repeatedly to do, calming the party down.

A man enters as the woman is helped off the bar. He isn’t a guest of the hotel, he was summoned here, and already jumpy. The invite wasn’t signed, just a note telling where and when to meet, and what to bring. It was accompanied by a photo of him with a woman other than his wife in a very compromising position.

Gil Price searches the faces at the bar and tables, whoever he is here to meet has the advantage of knowing what he looks like, intimately. He clutches a brown satchel tightly to his chest as he tries to make eye contact with the correct person. All the way in the back corner of the bar he spots a lone patron, one of the few that pays no mind to the boisterous woman at the bar. The heavyset man at the table looks like an aging bulldog. He grimly offers the slightest of nods to Price in recognition to draw him to the table.

Gil Price’s stomach is in knots that tighten with every step he takes towards his appointment.

“That’s me!” the loud woman at the bar screams, startling Gil Price whose nerves are already shot. “Turn it up!”

“…Rocky Roadkill spent more time in the penalty box than in the game, but that didn’t stop Man’s Ruin from trouncing Pornstar Galactica and ensuring their spot in the championship…”

“Jumpy, aren’t we, Mr. Price?” the stoic man asks as his guest sits across from him.

Price holds the bag even closer to himself on his lap. His hands fidget on top of it, twirling the wedding band on his left hand. “Well, it isn’t every day I get extorted.”

“The pictures were just to get you here, this is a business deal.”

“I thought you were asking for a bit much in the way of hush money. Who are you?”

“Who I am isn’t important, what I’m offering you is. Your little pharmaceutical company is currently ranked number two in the country, second only to Wilkes. How would you like to be number one?”

“There’s no beating Freeman Wilkes.”

“According to a reliable source Wilkes’s stock is about to take a hit.”

“What source?”

“His name is of no consequence. Rest assured, once this happens you will have but a brief window to capitalize on what I have for you. Your company can finally move past putting out generics and knock-offs, you can have the miracle behind Wilke’s miracle drugs. I can give you the secret ingredient.”

The researchers of Mercott & Price have been trying to crack the secret behind the drugs but for years it has eluded them. Gil Price can’t help but be skeptical. “Bullshit. The secret of their medicines is worth far more than what you asked me to bring.”

“I only need enough to leave the country, set up in some third world shit hole and live like a king.”

“Why the rush to leave the country?”

“My former employer isn’t a man one crosses and lives.”

“And, you crossed him?”

“I did,” the intimidating man admits without giving away any sense of fear. “Before you ask, it’s better for us both if you don’t know his name. He is, at the moment, beyond any hope of reaching me. I plan to use this window to keep it that way.”

“No honor amongst thieves?”

“I’m no thief. Besides, the asshole had it coming,” the man says and sips his whisky sour. He tries not to think about his former employer, how the man had made no concessions for his loyal lieutenants should he become incarcerated. They had no choice but to seek employment elsewhere, freelance.

“So, what’s the secret ingredient?”

“I have no idea, that’s your job. Shit doesn’t even have a name. I have come into possession of a small quantity of what Wilkes calls ‘sample 6’. Interested?”

Gil Price feels as if he’s making a deal with the devil. He shifts uncomfortably across from the man that has alluded to the future demise of Freeman Wilkes, announced it in such a cavalier manner as if speaking about the weather. If this ingredient is what he claims, even though he has no doubt it was procured by nefarious means, it will make Mercott and Price billions. “I am.”

“Great,” the man says dropping a fifty dollar bill on the table. “Have a drink on me. Meet me in room 402 in twenty minutes.”

The moment the aging mobster gets to his feet, men in suits rise from the nearby tables to flank him.

Price is left alone at the table, only a guilty pang in his gut to keep him company. He sets his elbows down and cradles his head in his hands. He debates what to do, if he should actually meet the man again or run. If this mobster wants to get out of striking distance, would he risk the time to show his wife the pictures?
The ingredient has already been stolen
, Price rationalizes.
Even if Freeman is getting whacked, I have nothing to do with that
.

Gil Price slaps his hand down on the fifty as he stands and heads to the bar. He finds a gap in the rowdy crowd to place his order. “Can I get a gin and tonic, please?”

He sips, lost in thought over what he’s about to do, too distracted within himself to hear the ladies around him.

“Hey, KB, want to have some fun?” The woman that had excitedly pointed out her own likeness on the screen has a young man by his belt.

“Eww,” her friend responds.

“Suit yourself,” the short haired woman pulls the man out of the bar behind her like a dog.

“We’re heading to the pool, KB. You in?” another friend asks as the party dissipates.

“No thanks. I’m going to give Rocky some time. Then, I’m turning in.”

The blonde is left all alone except for a troubled looking man at one end of the bar and a relaxed black man on the other that raises his glass to her when their eyes meet, a sign of solidarity in their solitude. Killer B stares passively at the television that has been switched from the little known sports network that broadcasts the league to the news. She wonders how long Rocky will need, it usually depends on the man in question’s stamina.

“Buy you a drink?” a well-dressed, older man asks as he takes the stool next to her, making sure she sees the thickness of his billfold as he places his order.

Her glass is nearly full. “No, thank you.”

“How about some company instead?” He eases his seat closer to her.

Killer B politely leans away from him. “I was actually enjoying some alone time.”

“Me too. No reason we can’t enjoy some alone time together.”

His statement is absurd, but she has certainly heard worse lines. She glances at him and finds him to be familiar, she knows his face.

“I’m in town for the Republican convention. Political talk and heated debate always makes me thirsty, among other things. I’m looking for a little companionship for the evening. I’m willing to pay, I pay more for discretion.”

The man casually taps his full wallet on the bar, if Killer B wasn’t struggling to place his name she’d be offended by his assumption that she is a prostitute. His identity is on the tip of her tongue. She feels she is close to naming him until his face appears on the local news. The bartender has turned the volume down since Rocky’s departure, the man sitting beside her is on the screen in a silent tirade, red in the face.

“Oh, you’re Paul Coburn! I’ve seen you on TV before,” she tells the man propositioning her.

“I’m sure you have. Are you a fan?”

“Not really,” The blonde says plainly. “I love your wife though, what’s her name again?”

“Jennifer,” he repentantly answers.

“Give her my best when you call her tonight,” Killer B tells the man with a smile as she leaves him alone at the bar with his shame.

Paul Coburn stares into his glass. The patrons of the bar have dwindled to just himself and a black man who is casually walking his way from where he had sat before the blonde left.

“Notorious GOP,” the man greets coolly. “She was a lot nicer than most women would have been, showed real class as you brandished your wealth and fame like an extension of your dick.”

The political spokesman stiffens his posture, regretting that he had sent his security detail away for the evening when he saw the sexy blonde he thought was a sure thing.

“Weren’t you spouting off just this afternoon about the sanctity of marriage?” the black man continues.

“You saw the convention?” Paul tries not to sound too surprised.

“Oh, I’m a big fan of bigots, hypocrites, and double standards. I really love the part where you bashed the idea of gays marrying, now I see you here about to sully the institute.”

He’s black, a liberal, and gay!
Paul thinks with horror.
He’s the perfect storm
. He tells himself not to show fear, like dealing with a bear in the woods. He knows he must stand his ground and finish his drink.

“Do you ever actually listen to yourself while you’re screaming to be heard over your opponents?”

“Well…”

“You call it debate, all it sounds like is a tantrum. A blowhard spouting off about morality yet doesn’t practice what he’s preaching.”

All Paul Coburn can do is down his drink and run. He can’t have another altercation leaking out to the liberal media.

“Have a good night, sir,” the black man bids him farewell as Paul escapes to his room alone to call his wife.

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