Authors: R. G. Richards
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locals is purely coincidental.
Book 1 (Zora Baker series)
Cover Art by
© 2012 by R. G. Richards
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author or publisher except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.
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The stale air surrounding us smelled of filth. Not filth exactly, but the constant smell of dead flesh. Dead and burning flesh. I looked from the back of our truck as we passed them. Our army truck zigzagged across the road, weaving around dead and rotting bodies.
They used to be people and it seemed a shame to pass them as if they were road trash. We would get to them later, I told myself. I repeated the words in my head, for my peace of mind and sanity.
I looked at my fingers, long and slender with traces of a blue nail polish I used three weeks ago. I hate the way they look. I may be in the army, but I am still a woman. First chance I get, I am going to trim my nails and repaint them. That is, if I am lucky enough to find some nail polish.
The truck stopped and I was the first to get out. I hopped over the tail of the truck, landing on the hard road. Lifting my rifle, I looked around for zombies, the norm these days.
“Clear!” I yelled.
The rest of the soldiers filed out of the back of the truck, twenty in all. We fanned out on the orders of our leader and took up positions on both sides of the road. We were there to scout for survivors at a mansion-sized house.
Since the world had changed and zombies had taken over the world, we, the army, had been doing our best to rescue survivors and bring them to a free zone. The general talk around town was the army had created the virus that turns people into zombies, an experiment that got away from them. Damn germ warfare. None of it was true, but as a PR campaign, we, the army, began progressively rescuing survivors.
The plan was simple; listen to your radio and if you needed rescuing, gather at a central location, if you could get there, and fly a flag on your roof. We would get there and bring you to safety. For me, this was my fifth rescue this month. I adjusted my helmet and looked down at my camouflaged uniform. The uniform wasn’t mine. It belonged to Private Speck and still had her nametag on the pocket. My outer jacket belonged to Private Trakel, my boots to Private Browning, and my M16 used to belong to Private Stahmon. That is the way it is in the new army. When a soldier goes down, we strip them for anything salvageable.
We did an extensive survey of the area before sending in a small group of soldiers to rescue the survivors.
“Baker, Jones, Dushell, Donovan, Mackey,” said Sergeant Welch, our squad leader. “Go, go, go!”
That was us. We ran toward the white house with the huge columns out front. Our guns were up and out in front of us as we stopped, to creep forward.
“Wait,” said Jones.
We watched a pudgy squirrel run across the front of the porch. I looked at Jones. He smiled as if a great weight lifted from his shoulders. I guess he liked squirrels, though that one looked to be a zombie.
“It’s all right,” said Jones, “let’s go.”
We stepped on the porch and I took point, training my gun at the front door.
Private Jones knocked at the door, then stepped aside. I readied to fire in case a zombie showed its face. The door squeaked open. My hand tightened on my weapon, my trigger finger ready. It is so easy to squeeze, but I have to wait. If its eyes were white I would stand down, if red, I would fire between its beady little eyes with pleasure.
I tensed as the door opened wider.
“Hold your fire,” a man shouted.
“Come out so I can see you,” I shouted back.
“Okay, okay, okay. We are coming out. There are six of us here. We are coming out.”
“Hands in the air,” I said.
I watched as six people came out of the house with their hands in the air. They were all old and dirty. The youngest was a woman around thirty. I was barely nineteen and fresh out of boot camp, or at least that’s what my squad called it. By now, zombies were everywhere. They had been around for two years. Most of the world’s population is zombie. A few areas have power from power plants that had no one left to shut them off. This house is one of the few with electricity; it must belong to someone important.
The people came out and we marched them to the back of the truck. When they settled in, we gave them bottled water and an energy bar to eat. They had all come with a backpack with personal possessions and what food they had. My Sergeant told them to save their supplies for leaner times.
“Where are we headed?” asked the man who came out first.
“Camp Vix,” said Sergeant Welch. “You will spend the night there and in the morning you will board a truck that will take you to Camp Brandt.”
“That’s the free zone, right?”
The Sergeant nodded.
Camp Brandt was one of three strongholds we knew about. Another was in Wyoming, the third, I can’t recall its location. I know Wyoming has the largest camp and all army divisions from the Southwest go there. Those remaining divisions in the center of the country made their way to Camp Brandt. We hear there are over one thousand people at that camp. I can’t wait to see so many uninfected humans.
“All right, guys. Let’s go,” said Sergeant Welch.
The truck fired up and we started our journey back to our camp. I sat on the end and watched the bodies our truck went around. I hated to admit it and never did, but I am glad I am on the rescue and clean up squad. Our job is just that, rescue survivors and take them to safety and clean up the area. Clean up involves picking up human and zombie bodies and burning them in a pile away from the public.
The cleanup effort was supposed to slow the spread of the virus. The most we knew was that you could burn the bodies and kill the virus. Other than that, all we knew was that you couldn’t let them bite you. Half our squad had zombie scratches. For that, you go to isolation for two days. If you haven’t died and turned after two days, you wouldn’t.
I was careful and fired at zombies before they got close enough to touch me. I had come close a couple of times, but I had fared well so far. Well, not so well once, but that’s a story for another time.
My team and the survivors sat together. I was glad when we turned in to the camp and got out. I began walking to our barracks when our leader began shouting at us, one by one. I waited for my turn, hoping it wouldn’t go so bad this time.
“Baker,” said Sergeant Welch. “Front and center!”
I ran forward and stood in front of him at attention. “Yes, sir.” I was rigid and my salute perfect, as perfect as my limited experience would allow.
“You made two mistakes, Private. You make two more and that’s your ass. You get me, Private.”
“I get you, sir.”
“Yes, sir.” I waited for his salute and I relaxed. I hustled to my bunk for rest, not knowing what I had done wrong. For me, it was normal. I was not the best soldier in the world. I was nothing the army could be proud of. I was one of their challenges.
My family is dead, except me and my brother. We were once part of our own small army. My parents had twelve kids. I was fifth from the bottom; they had begun to slow down when I came along. My remaining siblings and I were years apart. I guess they were wising up to the burden of having so many children.
We weren’t Catholic, so I can’t use that as to why our family was so large, it just was and that’s that. I made my way to my rack, slipped off my pants, and fell in it. I was so tired that I immediately fell asleep.
A blaring siren woke me. Trained to sleep with my rifle, I immediately picked it up and searched the room for targets. People ran around, some in their underwear, others fully clothed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Infiltration. Zombies are in the camp,” shouted Private Jones. “Head to the fence, now!”
I threw on my pants and rushed to the front gate. My squad was already there, firing through the fence. Zombies fell everywhere. Those hit in the head, fell and never got up, their brains spilling on the ground. Those shot elsewhere, shook it off and kept coming. With no time for fear, I put my gun through the fence, aimed, and fired. First, wildly spraying around, then I settled down and aimed at their heads. My team dropped them by the dozens. They came at us in a pack. This is the first time it had happened. The zombies must have been massing outside our perimeter and chose the nighttime as their attack time.
I spotted one trying to get to civilians on the back of a truck. The zombie must have just turned. It looked human, except for the horrible moaning sound it made, the slobber hanging out its open mouth, and the fact that it was trying to catch and eat people. I aimed and fired. Jackpot. I watched the greenish gook it called blood splash forward with its green spotted brains. With no time to savor the victory, I moved on to the next one.
We fired away, but it did no good, too many came at us. As we reloaded, they surged and came through the fence. They literally knocked it down and were on us. We scattered.
Sergeant Welch was in the lead and fell first. I watched in horror as he ran out to fight them. I can only assume he was out of ammo and fell back to hand-to-hand combat. His fight lasted a moment. A large zombie fell on him, they hit the ground. The zombie bit into his neck and he was gone.
I chose that moment to space out and just watched. Sergeant Welch was a badass and he was the one who trained me. Private Jones fired and killed the zombie. He then aimed and put a bullet in the Sergeant’s head. Fear overwhelmed me.
Private Dushell, my bunk buddy, shook me. “Get your ass in gear, Baker!”
I sprang into action. I aimed and fired in every direction, determined to hold my ground. My squad and I fired relentlessly into the charging zombies, while others packed into trucks and sped away. With all the screaming, I couldn’t tell what was going on. I did my job and held my ground. I emptied a clip, popped in a new one, and kept firing.
“Fall Back, Fall Back,” yelled Private Jones.
We walked back while firing. We had no time to register the loss of our commanding officer. We simply walked backward, taking up our secondary positions and allowing our convoys to escape.
As I was firing, I saw a crazed zombie running toward the back of a truck full of civilians making their escape. At first, it looked like the same truck and same zombie. I saw men throwing backpacks, bottles of water, anything they could at the chasing zombie. Other zombies joined the chase and became targets. They fell, got up, and continued their chase. The one crazed zombie could move out of the way of anything thrown at it. I aimed and fired. It moved. Oh my god! I hit a little girl in the truck. She slumped and a woman stopped throwing and looked at me. I could feel her astonished stare and it hurt. I closed my eyes and saw the little girl’s dead eyes glaring at me. I froze.