Authors: M.D. Massey
Tags: #dystopian, #werewolf, #shapeshifter, #horror, #vampire, #vampire hunter, #post apocalyptic, #zombie, #werewolves, #werewolf hunter, #zombie hunter, #apocalypse, #post apocalyptic books, #Zombie Apocalypse
And the fact was, I didn’t have much in the way of backup to choose from. A surf-bum werewolf, albeit one who could take care of himself, and who frankly scared the shit out of me at times, and an eleven-year-old science experiment with an identity crisis, who couldn’t decide if she was iCarly or La Femme Nikita from one moment to the next. One thing I knew for sure was that both were stone killers, albeit damaged ones, but I worried about the effect it was going to have on them both long-term.
Bobby was pretty much an adult, and presumably he already had serious issues, what with being a ’thrope and all. So despite the repercussions of what we might have to do to rescue Kara and the others, he was old enough to make his own decisions.
But Gabby? It was a mistake for me to let her take out that picket sentry outside of town, no matter what she’d done in the past. No kid should have to do shit like that. Fact was, I’d gotten so caught up in getting here in time I’d forgotten what it meant to be a civilized human being. And, if I was being completely honest with myself, I’d started looking at the kid differently since the doc told me what she was. In the back of my mind, I’d started thinking of her as less than human, which was absolutely unfair to her. The kid didn’t ask to be turned into something other than human; and besides, if I thought she was less than human after becoming Captain Perez’s lab rat, then what would that make me if I accepted the doc’s offer?
As these thoughts rolled around in my head, I moved workbenches and boxes in Gabby’s garage so I could get to the gear I’d need for the coming rescue mission. Ever since the War ended and the undead started crawling out of the woodwork, I’d been scrounging and salvaging military-grade munitions, ammo, and weapons, anywhere I could find them. And while I’d stashed much of it in underground storage caches near my cabin in the boonies, for emergencies I’d left a few goodies here at Kara’s place.
Once I’d cleared the section of wall I was looking for, I took an old Phillips screwdriver and began working at some joint compound with the tip. Before long I’d exposed four screws, which I then removed and set aside. Once I’d removed the screws, it was simply a matter of the careful application of a razor knife to free the panel from the light coat of plaster and caulk I’d used to conceal the joints. Then I pulled the panel from the wall and eyed my bounty.
Inside the hidden wall compartment sat two military duffel bags and a hard case, all of which I pulled out and set off to the side. Then I replaced the wall panel and moved the bench back where it was to conceal it. I figured I might need to use the hidey-hole again later and felt better about leaving it concealed, just in case any scavengers came around while we were gone.
Inside the bags there was a Stoner light machine gun and a shit ton of 5.56 ammo, along with an assortment of frag grenades and a few Claymore mines, complete with wiring hardware and clackers. It’d been amazingly easy to find high-grade military weapons and munitions during the confusion following the first wave of undead, and I grabbed all I could get. For a couple of years I made my living scavenging the Corridor, and during that time I nabbed whatever I could get my hands on.
God bless the National Guard.
Setting the bags aside, I checked the case for damage, and finding none, I set it on the bench and opened it to inspect the contents. Opening the case revealed a Barrett “Light Fifty” anti-materiel rifle, along with three ten-round magazines. The thing was a beast and a half, and although I hated the thought of lugging it all the way to the Corridor, I really didn’t see an alternative, because I was going to need as much firepower as possible in order to take out that pack.
I divided up the load between Donkey and an old draft horse that’d seen better days, and saddled an Appaloosa that was a bit feistier than the remaining two. I had no idea of how well Bobby could ride, so I figured it was best to leave him something he could handle. I saddled the other two and packed our gear while I waited for the kids to come back from their final sweep.
Bobby jogged up and looked at the horses. “Oh, boss, I don’t need a horse. In fact, it’d do me more good to eat it than to ride it.” As he said that last bit, I couldn’t help but notice that the Appaloosa was getting a little skittish around him.
“See what I mean? They won’t let me near them—I smell too much like a wolf. Gabby had to lead those horses back while I played sheepdog rounding them up.” He hitched a shoulder and laughed. “Why they let her get near is a mystery though—I guess she smells a lot more human than me to these things.”
I nodded. “Can you run all the way back?”
“Yeah, but I really do need to eat something first.”
I reached into a saddle bag and tossed him a large package wrapped in old yellowed butcher paper. “Jerky. Have at it.” About that time Gabby ran up, looking a bit more winded than Bobby but none the worse for the wear.
I took them both in and smiled, trying to put a bright face on despite our current situation. “Alright, you both know we’re moving at night, and while I’d rather wait till morning I suspect most of the deaders around were attracted to the movements of the pack pulling through here and back after the raid. I’m counting on the fact that they’ll have pulled most of the deaders in the area slightly north of the route we took coming in. So, I intend to head back the way we came and hole up at the winery safe house Gabby and I were at just a few days ago. From there we can rest and regroup a few hours, then head due south straight to the Facility to meet up with Captain Perez. Any questions?”
Bobby raised a hand. “For future reference? If you make any more jerky, can you leave the pepper out? Gives me gas, and let me tell you, you do not want to walk behind me for the next few hours.” He waved a hand in front of his nose and gave Gabby a conspiratorial wink. She giggled, and I knew all would be well with these two, in spite of everything they’d been through recently; folks in this world were nothing if not resilient.
- - -
e reached the winery about an hour before first light, and other than a few close calls with wandering deaders we’d arrived relatively unharmed. As I suspected, for the first twenty miles or so most of the Z herds were clear of our route, presumably following the pack and their prisoners. If I was right in my assumptions, the ’thropes would be making a forced march back to Austin, following Highway 290 the entire way. I kept telling myself that I was making the right call, heading to the Facility in order to get the edge I’d so desperately need to free Kara, but there were multiple times during the night when I had to talk myself out of turning north to intercept the pack.
We entered the grounds without incident and secured ourselves in the bunker to catch some sleep before we headed out to the Facility. From what Gabby told us, it was fairly close to the northern edge of the old military preservation. Prior to the War, the Army had used Camp Bullis for field training exercises and to train 18 Deltas, Special Forces medics... and apparently also for some other freaky shit as well. There were vast expanses of densely wooded areas on Camp Bullis, and I was sure it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to hide a secret underground installment there. Why they hadn’t located it at Camp Stanley was beyond me, but perhaps even the Spooks didn’t know about the Army’s little foray into supernatural DNA splicing. And, who knew what the hell the CIA had left down there.
I sacked out and was awakened a few hours later by Gabby’s voice, whispering in my ear in frantic tones. “Scratch, we got Zs outside the door!” I was up in an instant and grabbing for my gear in the dim light of an oil lamp.
“What’s the situation?”
“I couldn’t sleep, so I got geared up and decided to listen by the door—I figured that way we could leave just as soon as you guys woke up. About twenty minutes ago I started hearing moaning outside, and it sounds like there’re a ton of deaders walking around on top of us. I think I even heard one walking on top of the hatch!” Gabby looked a little freaked, and I could understand how she felt. A herd of zombies could just ramble around for a bit and move on, or they could decide to camp out for days; you just could never tell with the damned things. Moreover, if one of them found a way inside the barn, they’d likely get to the horses, which I was sure were already starting to get spooked. Once the Zs caught wind of them, they’d never leave.
On the other hand, Bobby looked like he could care less about the zombies. Remembering how nonchalant he was back at the punter safe house, I decided to ask him something I’d been wondering about since I’d met him. “Bobby, just curious—are you immune to deadhead bites?”
He scratched his head. “Well, I dunno—one of the pack got pulled down by a herd once, and he got really sick. Our alpha killed him right after, so I never really found out what would have happened if he hadn’t, you know? But I’ve never had to find out myself—they’re so slow I can pretty much run circles around them.”
Well, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about Bobby. “Alright, good to know. Look, we may have to fight our way out of here, if we can’t get the horses out of the barn on a safe escape route that’s free from Zs. If so, Bobby will create a distraction and pull as many deaders off as possible, while Gabby and I take the horses and head in the opposite direction.” I glanced at Bobby, who wasn’t looking too keen on the plan. “Once you lose them, meet us here at this airstrip on the north side of the military preserve.” I pointed to an area on my map, and Bobby nodded with reluctance in his eyes.
I moved the shelving along the back wall so I could open the escape hatch, and then pointed into the tunnel. “Alright, we’re heading out the back way—Gabby, climb through there and tell me if the horses seem riled up.”
She headed into the short tunnel, and then whispered back, “All clear.”
“Then let’s head out and hope that Bobby’s as fast as he says.”
Bobby looked over at me with indignation on his face, and I could hear him mumbling under his breath as he exited into the escape tunnel. “Oh, I’m fast alright. Doesn’t mean I appreciate being treated like a redshirt. But hey, let the werewolf take the heat, sure, that’s a great plan...”
- - -
he barn was all clear, so we saddled the animals as quietly as possible, keeping them stabled while I did some recon on our possible escape routes. It was dark and overcast outside, and I hoped we’d get some rain to cover the sounds of our escape. I also saw that there were Zs everywhere, at least a few dozen around the area. I ducked back down before one spotted me, and crept back over to Bobby and Gabby to hash out our escape plan.
“Bobby, there are more Zs on the north side of the building—”
He cut me off in mid sentence. “So, I’ll head out the south exit—right.” He then nodded to me in a self-satisfied fashion.
“—as I was saying, Bobby will head out the
exit, and make a crap load of noise to draw off as many deaders as possible.”
Bobby did a double take and his eyes swiveled back around to gape at me. “What the hell, man? Why do I get the suicide mission?”
“Well, since the horses are carrying the munitions we’re going to need to blow the Corridor pack sky-high, I need to get them and my mule safely away from here. This is critical—without the gear I have packed on those animals, we’re toast.”
Gabby chimed in, “What do you want me to do?”
“Gabby, when I give the word you’re going to haul ass on your horse, leading Donkey and heading in a general southwesterly direction. I’ll take the other horses and run interference so you get away safely, then catch up with you a few miles down the road.” She nodded and her cheeks flushed, whether with excitement or fear, it was hard to say.
I walked Bobby over to the north exit door. “Bobby, no unnecessary risks, alright?”
He gave me a look that named me Captain Obvious without saying a word. “You don’t have to tell me twice.” Then he opened the door and bolted. As the door slammed shut, I could hear him yell, “And if I come back as a were-zombie, the first thing I’m going to do is eat your mule!” Then all I heard was a lot of nonsensical hooting that I assumed was his attempt at zombie calling.
I could hear Gabby stifling a laugh as I went to help get her ready to bolt. She slapped me on the shoulder from up in the saddle. “C’mon, you have to admit he’s pretty funny. Besides, laughing makes me less nervous.”
I glanced at her and nodded. I didn’t have much to say to that, and had no idea how to comfort a scared kid besides acting like I knew what I was doing. As I checked her saddle and harness, I gave her my final instructions. “Remember, haul ass that way”—I pointed southeast of us—“and we’ll meet up three miles down the road. And if I don’t show within twenty minutes, head to the airstrip, hide out, and wait for Bobby. Got it?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Yes, Dad.”
I cleared my throat in uncomfortable confusion. “Well—alright then.” She grinned a maniacal little smile at me. “Okay, here we go, kid.” I threw open the barn door and slapped her horse on the hindquarters, following it up with a light pat on Donkey’s rear to get her going. She knew what to do, and it took little prodding to get her moving when the undead were around. I shut the door nearly closed, and watched out of the barely cracked door as Gabby made it to the road with only a few stragglers halfheartedly on her tail.
After I was sure Gabby made a clean getaway, I left the door unlatched and turned back to retrieve the two other horses. As I was about to saddle up, I heard the door squeak behind me and turned around to see what had entered the barn with me; what I saw was heartbreaking.
Standing there in the doorway, in her little home-sewn dress and scuffed patent-leather shoes was the little girl from the settlement—the one I’d rescued along with her mom just a few days prior. She was missing a hunk of flesh from her right cheek, and there was dried blood caked to her face on that side. In addition to the wound, she had blood and gore painted around her mouth, and all down the front of her dress.