Authors: Jason Brant
Tags: #vampires, #End of the World, #Dracula, #post apocalyptic, #Zombies, #apocalypse
“What are we doing here?” she asked.
“Our bird has picked up a lot of thermal activity here over the past few nights. They’ve swarmed around one block in particular. There’s a tunnel there that we’ve decided will be our point of entry.” Colt climbed out.
He reached into the back and grabbed Cass by the arm, pulling her out of the Jeep.
“I’m going to undo your bindings. Don’t do anything stupid. We both want to take out this nest, so let’s work together until we’re finished. We’ll sort our differences afterward. Deal?” Colt towered over her. The sun was at his back, silhouetting him in shadow.
Cass pretended to think about it. She had planned to do exactly that. “Deal.”
“I’m serious. Don’t fuck with me on this.”
“I heard you the first time. Cut me loose.”
“Turn around.” Colt pulled a knife from his pocket and flipped it open.
Cass’ heartbeat quickened at the sight of the glinting metal, but she did as she was told. If he wanted to kill her right there, she couldn’t do a damn thing about it. As she felt him working at the wire, she checked out the neighborhood.
Most of the homes were in decent shape. The grass was long, the hedges overgrown. Broken windows and doors abounded, but that was commonplace.
One house stood out, a block away. Most of the walls were gone, torn away in large chunks. A section of the roof had caved in. Debris was everywhere.
It looked to Cass like a bomb had gone off inside.
Her hands broke free and she moved them to her chest, rubbing at her wrists. Her fingers tingled from the increased circulation.
Colt cult her ankles loose a moment later and stood back up. “Stay here.” He lumbered toward the next vehicle as it pulled up behind them.
Men climbed from the LAVs. They tossed weapons to one another, piling equipment and bags in the middle of the street. Joe and Adam exited the last vehicle in the line, a white Suburban, and walked to Cass.
“You OK?” Joe asked.
Adam watched the men unloading equipment. “What happened last night? Why did he get all aggressive like that? I thought he was here to help us?”
“He’s here to help himself. He’s using us to get to whatever he has in mind. Who knows if we’ll ever find out exactly what he’s up to.” Cass stepped between the two of them and lowered her voice. “Did you hear from Eifort or Brown last night?”
Joe shook his head. “No, why?”
“Shit.” Cass hoped that wasn’t indicative of their efforts to spread their plans through the camp. She whispered, “We’re abandoning the compound today.”
Adam’s head snapped around, his mouth dropped open. “What?”
“Shh!” Cass’ eyes cut over to Colt. He didn’t appear to have heard. “We can’t keep it together there anymore. That and we don’t like where things are going with Major Jagoff over there. Eifort and Brown are getting everyone rounded up into the tankers and RVs and hitting the road. Hopefully, they’re on their way now.”
“What about the armed men Colt left there?” Joe asked out of the corner of his mouth. “How are they getting through that tank?”
“I don’t know, but they’ll have to figure it out.”
“Where are we going?” Adam asked. “I mean, what could be better than that place?”
“To the ocean. We’re getting on a boat. The Vladdies won’t go into the water.”
“Really? How do you know that?”
“We lived on a boat for a while after Heinz Field fell. Look, I don’t have time to explain everything, but just be ready to run. I didn’t plan on you guys being here with me.”
Joe’s brow furrowed. “How are we going to get away?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m not leaving until I destroy the nest first. I need to do it for Lance.”
Adam frowned. “This is crazy. What if we don’t make it? We’re leaving the compound and hoping that we make it to the water?”
Colt turned back to them and waved them over.
The three of them walked toward him. Cass kept whispering out of the side of her mouth.
“We don’t have a choice. Just follow my lead when everything goes down.”
Colt’s men unpacked several bags, pulling out rifles, flares, and spotlights.
“Pick those up,” Colt said, pointing to duffel bags in the street. “They’re filled with explosives.”
Cass grabbed the first one and hoisted it onto her shoulder. It was heavy, but not to a burdening degree. The idea of going into a nest didn’t intrigue her. Been there, done that. Damn near got killed doing it. She wanted to destroy it, yes, but there had to be a better way than marching headfirst into their lair.
“This is your plan? To take some explosives down there? You spent two days coming up with this?” She felt her anger rising even further. Had she known this was all he wanted to do, she could have done it the day Lance died. “I had no idea you were such a fucking moron. The big military man couldn’t think of something better? I did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.”
“No, we spent two nights watching their movements with the thermal. There has been a lot of activity around this tunnel both nights.” Colt grabbed a bag. “We have to get deep enough inside to blow the whole thing to hell, and this looks to be the quickest way down. You think you’re the first person to think of taking out a nest from the inside?”
Colt gestured for everyone to grab their own duffel bag. “We rode with a guy for a few weeks, Aaron, who liked blowing shit up. Real crazy bastard who said he was a rodeo clown and some kind of spec-ops badass. Guy always rambled about blowing up all the zombies.”
“Zombies?” Cass grimaced. “What dipshit would call these zombies?”
“Like I said, he was a nut. But he knew his explosives, and he showed us the best places to put a couple of charges to take out a nest.”
“And where is the rodeo clown now?”
“Chunks of him are probably still falling out of the sky.”
“Great,” Cass said. “We’re following the directions of a guy who blew himself up. This should go well.”
Colt reached into another bag by his feet and pulled Cass’ axe out. He held it up, letting the sun reflect from the blade. “I think I’ll keep this to myself for now. I like the feel of it.”
As he gave his men a few orders, Cass kept her eyes on the axe hanging from his hand.
Before the day was over, she planned to give him a taste of its blade.
rown held the grocery bag under the cabinet as his arm scooped the canned goods from the shelf. They tumbled into the bag, threatening to tear the thin plastic.
He dropped it to the counter and grabbed another one.
Time was short.
He wanted to pack the food during the night, but Colt had kept his eye on him the entire time. Now, they were crunched for time. If they didn’t get on the road in the next thirty minutes, they might not have enough time to get the caravan across the state before nightfall.
And if that happened, well, he didn’t want to think about the consequences.
He’d started on his third bag when he heard someone clear their throat behind him.
“What do you think you’re doing, Doctor?”
Brown froze, his arm elbow deep in the cabinet. “I’m getting food from the kitchen. What does it look like?” He didn’t want to look at the man behind him, though he recognized the voice as one of Colt’s men.
“It looks like you’re stealing food. A lot of food. Like maybe you want to skip out on us.”
, Brown thought. He retracted his arm and slowly turned around. Captain Jones stood by the table, a smirk twisting half his mouth. Brown couldn’t believe that he hadn’t heard the man sneak up behind him.
“I don’t like being accused of things, Captain. Besides, I can’t steal something that doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. People are free to use whatever they need in this camp.”
“Not anymore. The rules are changing around here. Now, put all of those back and I’ll consider not kicking the shit out of you.”
Brown drummed his fingers on the counter as his mind raced through scenarios that could get him out of the kitchen with the food. He couldn’t leave without it. The pregnant women would need to eat during the trip.
“Did you hear me, Doctor? I said—”
“I heard you.” Brown wasn’t a good liar, never had been. His wife used to tell him that he couldn’t lie to save his life. That was literally proving true. No matter what he thought to say, he couldn’t find a plausible excuse for taking the food.
“Oh, you heard me?” Jones took a step closer, balling his hands. “Time to take your medicine, Doctor.”
Brown’s frustration boiled over. He’d failed at keeping his people safe. He’d failed at keeping Lance alive.
He wouldn’t let everyone down again. They had to flee the compound before it was too late. Captain Jones stood in the way.
With a growl, he pushed off the counter and threw himself into Jones’ chest. Brown had almost a foot of height over the captain and bowled him over like a linebacker. They crashed into the table, breaking its legs off, flattening it to the floor.
“Motherfucker!” Jones threw a punch from his back that connected with Brown’s chin, but it lacked power because of his poor positioning.
Brown drove his forearm into Jones’ neck and reared back to lob a haymaker of his own.
Jones shifted his weight and drove his knee into Brown’s groin.
A sickening ball of agony settled in Brown’s stomach. The strength wilted from his grip.
That was all Jones needed. He sprang up, rolling Brown to the side.
Punches came fast and furious as Brown tried to defend his face. He ate several, his vision flashing black with each connection.
One of the broken legs from the table jammed into his hip. He grabbed it and swung it in a quick arc at Jones’ pinched, angry face.
It thunked off his temple.
Jones’ eyes lost their focus for a second. He shook his head, and they cleared.
Brown swung again, but Jones blocked it with his forearms.
“I’m not gonna teach you a lesson, not anymore.” Jones kicked him in the stomach.
The air exploded from Brown’s lungs as he doubled over, the pain in his gut jumping exponentially.
“Fucking civilians.” Jones touched his temple. His fingers came away bloody. “Useless. All of you. I’m going to kill you, and then I’m going to go out there and find your bitch. We’ll see what she has to offer when—”
Brown’s vision tunneled.
He tasted blood.
Heard his pulse thunder in his ears.
He lunged forward again, wrapping his arms around Jones’ waist, lifting him into the air.
Jones beat against his back and bucked his legs.
Brown drove them through the doorway, into the command room, and slammed Jones onto the map-covered table.
Papers flew everywhere.
Brown’s breathing came in ragged gasps. He was larger than Jones, but he had over a decade of extra wear and tear on his body.
They rolled off the table, limbs flailing as they threw wild blows at each other. Brown landed on top and drove two hammer fists flush against Jones’ nose.
Blood poured from his nostrils.
Brown’s rage grew. He jumped up and reached for the HAM radio on the side table, intent on dashing the captain’s head in. Its heft slowed him for a moment, giving Jones a chance to scramble to his knees.
He caught the doctor in the liver with a hard punch.
Brown’s legs turned to rubber, and he staggered into the wall.
In half a step, Jones grabbed a chair and swung it at Brown. The legs snagged against the wall, blocking the blow a foot before it connected.
Without thinking, Brown scooped up a pair of scissors from an overturned coffee cup on the table and stabbed at Jones’ chest.
The blades punched two inches deep.
Jones howled and grabbed at the handle, tearing it free. Blood dribbled from the end of the silver metal. Brown circled out of the corner, getting a handful of feet between them.
They stared at each, their chests hitching from exertion. Blood ran from their ears and noses and mouths.
Jones spit a crimson wad of saliva to the floor. “Not bad for an old fogey.”
Brown wanted to say something pithy, but he wasn’t much of a shit talker. He feinted a punch, and Jones flinched.
Jones’ face twisted in rage. “Time to die, Doctor.”
He leaped forward, stabbing at Brown’s chest with the scissors.
Brown jumped back, his feet tangling in the legs of the toppled chair. A spasm ran up his back as he fell to the floor, landing on his tailbone. His left side went numb, his arm feeling loose and disconnected.
He slid backward on his hands and ass, putting more distance between them.
Jones kicked the chair aside and came after him. The scissors flipped in his hand so the blades jutted from the bottom of his fist.
Brown’s back knocked against a desk, and a memory clicked into place. Ralph had stashed guns in every room. People kept finding them as they opened drawers and peered under beds.
A .38 was in the drawer by his shoulder.
He spun and yanked it open, reaching in blindly as it was above his eye level. His fingers brushed cool metal.
“What are you—?” Jones words caught in his throat when Brown pulled the pistol from the desk. “No!”
He dove at Brown, stabbing at his arm. The scissors cut into Emmett’s shoulder, blood welling around the closed blades.
Brown grunted, but stayed focused, ignoring the agony in his muscle.
He jammed the pistol under Jones’ chin. “Don’t move,” he wheezed. “Don’t make me—”
Jones yanked the scissors free and swung at Brown’s neck.
The doctor pulled the trigger.
His ears rang.
Warm liquid splashed his face.
Jones slumped against him.
Brown refused to look at the clotted, misshapen tangle of hair in front of his face. He closed his eyes and rolled the limp body off him.
Gags came from him as he got to his knees. The first retch was dry. The others weren’t.
Tears stung his eyes as he vomited in front of the table. His fingers shook with guilt and adrenaline. The gun fell from his hands, landing on a torn map of Pittsburgh.