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
Then, I ran to where Ratcliff was waiting on me and followed him to the wall. Just as he was climbing up, I slipped my arm around his neck and placed him in a rear-naked choke, applying pressure with my biceps and forearm to the sides of his neck. He struggled, but only for about eight or ten seconds; I released the pressure just a few seconds past the point where his body went limp. Once I’d checked him for a pulse, I set him down gently against the perimeter wall, laying him on his side so he wouldn’t choke or hurt himself when he came to.
“Sorry, Ratcliff,” I whispered to his still form. When the smoke cleared tomorrow and they figured out what’d happened, I hoped he’d appreciate the fact that I didn’t just kill him and dump his body in the latrine.
After I’d made sure Ratcliff would wake up with nothing more than a pissed-off disposition, I grabbed my gear from where I’d stashed it earlier and sprinted to an area of the wall that was still unmanned. Checking right and left to make sure no one was watching, I climbed up and slipped off the side, rapidly disappearing into the night. As I entered the relative safety of the tree line, I allowed myself just a moment’s worry about what tomorrow would bring, once these jokers figured out they’d been had. I held a slim hope that they’d think I was killed and carried off in the attack, but with Carter still alive, I doubted the chances of that happening.
- - -
caught up to Gabby, Bobby, and the doc at a previously agreed-upon rendezvous point about halfway to the Facility. Then, I handed Bobby my ruck and instructed them to stick to a blacktop road until they got back to the Facility and to wait for me there. Once I had them headed back to the Facility, I backtracked to the militia compound in order to throw them off our trail. From what I’d gathered, they didn’t have a competent tracker in the bunch, but I didn’t want to take any chances that they’d find us later on.
With their commander down and out, I suspected the militia would be in a state of disarray and confusion for a while. Leakey had been too stupid to appoint junior officers, relying on the sergeant major to handle the day-to-day execution of his orders. Without a clear succession in the chain of command, they’d likely be operationally crippled until someone stepped up to take the reins. I suspected there’d be some infighting in Leakey’s absence, and hoped it’d be enough to cause them to fragment completely.
As I left false trails on the jeep tracks and dirt roads in and around the militia compound, I contemplated what I was going to do once I got back to the Facility. Was I really willing to potentially sacrifice my humanity, in order to save the people I cared about: Kara, Janie, Sam, and all the rest? Not to mention getting revenge on those bastards for what they did to Donnie Sims. He might have been a bit of a coward, but nobody deserved that. Hell, I couldn’t even figure out what they’d done to him, much less determine how much of a threat he’d be later on down the road.
There was also the question of those punters. Somehow, Pancho Vanilla must’ve known about Gabby’s “condition.” Otherwise, why would he have shot her with a silver bullet, when a standard round would’ve put her down just as easily? I had a lot of loose ends that needed tying up, and to be honest I wasn’t sure that I could do it as just Scratch Sullivan, card-carrying member of the human race.
I also wanted to know more about Captain Perez and what she knew about Them. Thus far, she’d been suspiciously mum on the research she’d done for the military, and I was certain she knew more than she let on... a lot more, in fact. First order of business when I got back to the Facility was to grill her on everything she knew about Them, and especially on what these treatments could potentially do to me and Gabby down the road. The kid I couldn’t do anything for, but if it looked like the cost was too high...
Aw, who was I kidding?
I’d do it in a heartbeat if it meant saving Kara. I just needed to know the score so I could punch out if it ever came down to that. I’d get my answers once I got back to the Facility. I just needed to make sure that no one from the compound could follow our trail.
Then, I’d have my answers... one way or another.
- - -
was so deep in my thoughts that I never saw the ambush coming. I turned a corner on an old jeep trail, and the next thing I knew I had half a dozen militia pointing gun barrels at me. There was no sense in fighting; I was out gunned, out manned, and they had the drop on me, dead to rights. I spent a moment chastising myself for being so careless, and then I dropped my rifle and raised my hands in the air.
At least the doc, Gabby, and Bobby got away. That was some small comfort.
“Aw, shit—lookee what we got here.” Atkins, one of Corporal Jones’s cronies, was eyeballing me down the barrel of an AK-47.
“What the hell, Atkins—they don’t trust you with a real weapon?” I nodded at the rifle in his hands.
Atkins grunted. “Keep on a talkin’, pretty boy. The colonel’s got sumthin’ planned fer you, and he says whoever brung you in alive’d get a per-motion.” He licked his lips and smiled, and I noticed he was missing several teeth. “’Sides, if I killed you before Jones got a holt of you, he’d be awful dis’pointed.” Atkins stepped forward and butt stroked me across the face, and then he instructed two of the soldiers to disarm me and pull me to my feet.
Despite all those action flicks Hollywood used to put out, there’s really no easy way to deal with multiple enemies with firearms, even at close range. Before I even had a chance to recover from getting thumped by Atkins, they had my hands zip-tied behind my back. There was nothing I could do but comply and hope I’d have a chance to escape later, before they decided what they were going to do to me.
The whole march back to the compound, Atkins continued taunting me and telling me how they were going to beat me into a bloody pulp. I was getting a real
vibe from him, and I decided I was going to kill him first, whenever the opportunity arose. It was a short three-mile hike back to the compound, and I was glad for the fact that I’d decided to make a false trail to the west, opposite of the direction that the doc, Gabby, and Bobby had gone. Atkins promised me that they’d find the doc, but somehow I doubted that. It was a small comfort, at least, to know they hadn’t also been captured.
When we got back to the camp, they marched me through the gates and straight back to the same quonset hut where I’d first met the colonel a few days back. As I walked through the front door, I reflected on the fact that this was exactly the way I walked in the last time, under guard and disarmed. And to my surprise, the crazy piece of shit was sitting behind his table again, looking at his maps, and still very much alive.
The colonel glanced up as I was marched in. I saw he had quite a few cuts on his face; also, his right arm was in a sling and he had some crutches leaning against the table nearby. But otherwise, he was in pretty good shape for someone who just had a grenade go off next to him. I guess the surprise registered on my face, because he looked me in the eye and laughed.
“Surprised to still see me standing. Or, well, I suppose sitting. As it turns out, one of the men saw the grenade you threw and tackled me to the ground, protecting me with his body. A good man, Gordon. I’m putting him in for a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, once we reestablish communications with command.” He nodded, and wiped his eye with his good hand.
“You’re probably wondering how you got captured. Well, as soon as the men told me you and the captain were missing, and we found that idiot specialist who was on guard duty with you, I put two and two together and realized that you’d helped her escape. So, I sent out squads to wait at likely ambush points, on the odd chance that they’d run across one of you. And here you are.” He tapped the fingers of his uninjured hand on the table. “Now, what to do with you?”
I stood there, stock still and looking him in the eye the whole time. Nothing I said or did would change his mind, and I was certain he’d already decided my fate, long before I walked in here. I figured firing squad would be his first choice, but I couldn’t be certain.
He turned to look at Atkins, who’d been standing off to the side at attention with his weapon at port arms.
What an asshole.
“Atkins, is your squad responsible for bringing this traitor and deserter in?”
Atkins cleared his throat and spoke up. “Yessir, we caught ’im over yonder past the range.”
The colonel nodded. “Excellent work. I’ll be putting you all in for a promotion, once we dispose of your prisoner. Take him out to the center of camp, and tie him up to make an example of him for all the troops to see. Then, he’s going to the pit.”
Atkins somehow managed a half-assed salute without dropping his piece-of-shit Chinese AK, and replied, “Yessir!” Then he and his squad marched me out and tied me up to an old light post in the center of camp, where I baked in the sun and suffered the hateful stares of most of the camp inhabitants.
- - -
bout an hour later, the sergeant major walked up with Jones and Topo. I noticed that Jones was walking with a limp, and I took a small bit of satisfaction in that. The sergeant major looked me over, and then spoke in a low, clear voice. “Corporal Jones, Specialist Topo, I believe the prisoner needs to be checked for weapons on his person. Take him someplace secure and search him.”
Jones gave me a murderous look. “Will do, Sergeant Major.” Topo was silent, and I could see why. His throat was bruised, and I could hear him wheezing a bit as he stood there.
As the sergeant major walked off, I could hear him call back quietly over his shoulder, “The commander wants to send him to the pit later. Make sure you leave him in one piece.”
Jones looked as though he was somewhat disappointed by the sergeant major’s instructions, and he leaned in to whisper in my ear, “I’m about to see how close to killing you we can get. And once they find that hot-ass doctor, Topo and I are going to rape her till she bleeds out.”
Topo laughed, but it looked like it hurt him to do so. I didn’t say a word. In SERE school, one of the basic premises you’re taught in order to survive once captured is to avoid insulting or encouraging your captors. While smart-aleck remarks might make for good movie dialogue, in real life all it serves to do is make things harder on you if you’re captured by the enemy. And, I had no illusions at this point: I was in enemy hands.
They untied me and marched me into a back room in one of the quonset huts, then took turns beating me bloody. I don’t know how long it went on, because I passed out a few times; all I know is I came to tied back up to the post in the middle of camp, beat all to hell and unable to see out of one eye. My entire face was swollen, I had blood all over the front of my shirt, and it felt like I’d been kicked repeatedly in the balls. My kidneys felt like a horse had tap-danced on them, my ribs ached so bad that it was hard to breathe, and even my arms, thighs, and calves hurt.
I knew from experience that one of the dangers of getting a beating as severe as I’d received was getting rhabdomyolysis from all the muscle-tissue damage. Even through the fog of the concussion I’d suffered during the beating, I knew I was probably going to die from all the muscle proteins that were being released into my bloodstream. I had no idea what “the pit” was or how it was going to be used to punish me, but I found myself seriously wishing they’d just shot me and been done with it.
I had no idea what time it was when they cut me down, but I was barely able to stand and had to lean on the militia to my right to remain on my feet. As I did, I heard a familiar voice whisper in my ear, “Man, you sure messed up good. Your face looks like a sack full of hammered assholes, you know that?
I looked up out of my good eye. “Ratcliff, glad to see you’re up and about.”
He barked a short laugh. “Hmph. I suppose I have you to thank for that, although I want you to know I pissed myself while I was out.” I looked around and saw the detail was made up of guys from the Swamp. They huddled around me, making it look like they were still cutting me down, while Ratcliff gave me a drink of water from a canteen.
“Why’re you helping me?”
Ratcliff grimaced. “Helping you? Shit, son, there ain’t no helping you now. You made your bed. But honestly, I don’t have anything against you, and figured I’d at least do you the kindness of one last drink before you go to the pit.” They dragged me over to a field stretcher and laid me down in it.
Ratcliff spoke up again. “You know the colonel’s pissed that those two worked you over like this. He said that the pit was punishment enough for you. Guess that’s why he has us doing this detail.”
I grabbed Ratcliff’s sleeve. “What’s ‘the pit’?”
He shook his head and slipped something in my hands. “You don’t want to know. But use that if you decide it’s better than the alternative.”
I felt the outline of the thing he’d slipped me, and recognized the contours of a lockback folding knife. I tucked it in my pocket and made certain that the outline couldn’t be seen. I closed my eyes, and within a few minutes I heard the sounds of many pairs of boots crunching over gravel. I cracked an eye and saw that the entire militia had been assembled in the central area of the compound. Ratcliff and the rest had left, and I could see one or two of them lined up in formation with the rest of the militia. I laid my head back down again, deciding that I should try to recover as much strength as possible before they sent me off to whatever fate the colonel had in mind for me.
Colonel Leakey hobbled up in front of the men on crutches, with SGM Marsh close behind. The colonel spoke, and his George C. Scott voice rang loud and clear. “This man you see before you is a traitor, and a deserter. He is also a killer, a liar, and a reprobate.” I reflected that few of the people present actually knew what a reprobate was, and almost had to laugh at Leakey’s choice of words.
“As is our tradition, we do not shoot or hang traitors and deserters. No, because this is a war that we fight, not amongst ourselves, but against the forces of hell that have descended upon this Great State of ours. So, for those who want to aid and abet the enemy, there is only one punishment suitable for such persons. And that is, that they should become one of them.”