Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dark Winter: Chapter 13

This was way more like it.  Sergeant Naisbett grinned like a starving wolf. The Toyota Tacoma nearly catapulted him off his feet as it  bounced over a ditch, heading straight for Major Castillo’s tree.  He was held in the air for better then a second until the truck bed came violently up to meet his feet again.

“HOO-RAAAH!!!” He bellowed the  Marine Corps battle cry into the icy November wind.  The Taco was not really built for comfort.  It wasn’t built for speed either.  It was just plain built. A no non-sense compact brute of a mid size truck.  A long standing treasured chariot of the Jihadis  and with damn good reason.  They were tough.  Naisbett and the rest of his team had done the Mogadishu Mile out of Deh Bala all the way to Jalabad holding on for dear life in the bed of one that had had the rear axle blown clean the fuck off by an RPG.  They made it out bandit country traveling better than thirty miles on the damn thing sparks flying behind them all the way..

“Contact, left!” he heard MacKay shout.  

Naisbett scanned to port and sure enough there was the Skipper, in his dress blues, barefoot in a tree looking bored and relaxed.  Texting for God’s sake, with four Zulus...sorry...Zombies jumping up and down snapping at him from underneath.

“Personnel is in clear and immediate danger.  Do you confirm?” Naisbett wasn’t just asking a stupid question.  This shooting was going to be a legally gray at best. Politically, it might not matter as much as it did yesterday.  America’s petulant child-king was off the throne now, but the brass would not be quick to adapt to new political reality.

“Confirm,” Top Anguiano said without a trace of hesitation and then he poured concrete on it. If you have to shoot then...own the shot. “Engage!”

Naisbett wrapped on the roof of the cab, “Slow down Jay.  I am not gyro-stabilized!”  Sergeant Jimenez was an LAV driver and it showed.  “Jimenez with a Jay,” he would always say.   A fourth generation Columbian and second generation Marine, if you wanted to send Jay batshit, just tell him that he wasn’t pronouncing his own name right.

Naisbett brought up the Springfield M1A Loaded Competition Rifle.  A very high tech descendent of the legendary M1 Garand from WWII, it was a polymer framed rifle with a pistol grip built into the stock. Naisbett had no idea where Cahn had gotten them.  These rifles sure as hell weren’t military issue. They were way too nice for that.  Naisbett was suddenly getting a taste of how the other half lived and he liked it.

Mac brought up his own weapon, a carbine version of Naisbett’s rifle, the M1A SOCOM.

They both aimed in.  The targets weren’t stable. They were constantly jumping, crouching,  running back and forth looking for better angle to try to get at Major Castillo.  

“Full stop,” Anguiano ordered Jimenez.  He had seen the problem.

Every Marine is trained for long distance shooting.  In boot camp they started at two hundred meters out in and worked their way back on a course of fire to five hundred.  Every Marine is a rifleman.  No need to adjust for range here.  They were under fifty yards.

“Lay on the horn,” Top ordered.

*MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP*

The zombies stopped running back and forth for a moment and stared at them.

Quite stable.

Quite still.

Mac’s trigger broke first, the M1 went off with a concussive *braaak*, The full power 7.62 round knocking his target off it’s haunches and onto it’s back.  Mac had aimed at the second button down on the zombie’s tattered shirt.  Ten years of constant low intensity urban fighting had taught military snipers to avoid looking at a target’s face.  Snipers were some of the worst victims of PTSD.

Unless you were Naisbett.

Naisbett’s rifle barked a moment later, blowing the back of his zombie’s head in a cone shaped shower of red blood and greyish-white brains with a shower of bone chips blossoming out of the wound.

He already knew these things weren’t going to respond well to anything except a neurologic or cardiac impact. Viewed from that perspective the brain is a bigger target than a heart.  And you know pretty much where it is.

Mac’s Zombie was wildly flailing it’s arms around screaming at top it’s hoarse voice of rage. That voice was so complete and all encompassing that it left no room for the acknowledgement of it’s own agony.  It was frantically scrambling around, it’s arms a blur, it’s legs dragging behind it, utterly useless.  

That was going to be legal problem if Naisbett didn’t act quickly.  It was harder to make a legal case for a crippled zombie being all that dangerous.  

Other rifles in the trucks behind them started blasting.  Naisbett’s joined them in finishing off Mac’s zombie, hoping the cascade of fire would give him legal cover.

The other two zombies went down like puppets with the strings cut, but a lot messier.  The life just plain turned off in them; the blood bright red on the white snow.  

It was over as fast as it started; the violence, accurate and professional.

Major Castillo deigned to notice them at that point and waved them over with an air of boredom.  The truck roared over to the tree, and the Major hopped off the branch and into the truck bed.  

“Here sir!”  Top tossed the Old Man three items:  an AFAK which wasn’t ideal for this kind of injury but it would do,  pair of socks, black, of course, and third item that Castillo scowled at.  

“We had to move fast, sir.  It was what I could find in your office,” Top more or less apologized.

John nodded acceptance trying to maintain the mask of command.  His actual boots were locked up in the wall locker, now that he thought about it.  These ECW arctic warfare boots wouldn’t fit in that, so he left them out in the open..  And on his size thirteen feet would looked like gigantic Mickey Mouse boots.

“Where to sir?” Jimenez called.

John took a breath and held it.  Technically this was none of their business.  

Not in the least.  

They had no remit outside their compound on the university.  Under federal law if he actively helped out he could be viewed as being in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. There were some revisions to cover terrorists, but so far nobody in the civilian leadership was calling Zombies anything but the Afflicted.  

He could fry for this.

“We’re headed for Spartan Stadium.  There’s a lot of folks there that are gonna need our help.”


Shocker had had worse days in his life. He honestly had.   There was there was that time in Kamdesh when they were having to go in hot because a chinook had gone done good and deep in bandit country and the bandits weren’t shooting their guys in any serious way.  They were saving up all the heavy stuff for the rescue party.  He and his team were the rescue party.

There was East Timor when he was just cutting his teeth and his damned antique MEU(SOC) 1911 had decided that the middle of building clearing op was the perfect time to shit the bed completely, just as some nasty local boys kicked the door back in his face.  

And of course there was Nasiriyah. Where he had won the Medal of Honor.

No. Being stuck in an elevator shaft with a half naked Russian beauty queen wasn’t even going to make the top ten.

She was turning out to be  a surprisingly shy thing.  Shocker was politely ignoring the goose skin that had formed on her nicely rounded buttocks.  She was still nuzzled into his chest.

She had a right to that at this point.  No question, really.  He had obligations now.

Shocker’s jet black Audi S8 had glided over the Grand River bridge with competent, understated menace into downtown Grand Rapids.

Aux lifted one eyebrow, as Shocker turned into the The Amway Grand’s parking garage.  “I thought we were going to the Six One Six?”

No, he thought to himself, you ordered me to take you to the Six One Six.  I never said I would.  

“Couldn’t get reservations this late,” he stated without apology.  It was hardly his first choice, anyway.  Sadly, his first choice didn’t exist anymore.  The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel had bowed to economic reality and shuttered the 1913 Room a few years ago.  AAA had consistently rated it at five diamonds, the midwest equivalent of a Michelin three star. The refinement necessary to enjoy it was no longer being produced by society. However, there was a remnant of that elegant  grand dame still clinging to life, if you knew where to look.

Her point had been made.  Shocker accepted it and stepped briskly to help his passenger out of her seat.  His vaguely within regulation gleaming black John Lobb oxfords snapping beneath his boatcloak.

The girl was already helping herself out of the car...or course.

Still he offered her his hand, which she accepted with a not entirely triumphant smile.  

“So we are going to the Cygnus then, yes?”  She asked.

“Eventually,”  Shocker replied.  “Evening reservations here were easier to come by.”  Also, I know the Maitre de and he wasn’t horrified by the idea of my showing my face here.  Granted, the Cygnus 27 also offers some intimate dining tables which will keep me out of the way.  In this case, that had it’s advantages and disadvantages.  Sertorio had been specific, he was supposed to be seen, (for some damn reason) this evening.  Well, he was not only wearing his dress blues, but his dress cape as well.  If the world didn’t see fit to see him, that was it’s own damned fault.

The girl deftly slipped her right hand inside his cape, (revealing a flash of its scarlet lining) and claimed his left arm.  Her long fingers closed over his gold service stripes, careful to avoid the anodized brass buttons.  They entered the skyway from the garage and took a rather stately walk above the traffic on Pearl St.  

They entered Amway Grand Plaza Hotel from the second floor.  

Built in 1913, the Grand Plaza was a turn of the century masterpiece.  A  hotel that still proudly wore her Edwardian opulence on her sleeve, the lobby was immersed in deep reds matched against dark wood grains with a sweeping staircase that allowed for a graceful descent by the few women left who were still capable of enjoying that sort of thing.  

Shocker’s date, it turned out, was just such a woman.  He slowed to patrol speed, allowing her to enjoy making a proper entrance.  One long dancer’s leg crossed the other with each luxuriant step,  the balls of her feet carrying her weight and highlighting the toned leg it supported. The delicate fingers of her left hand gracefully brushed the mahogany railing, allowing her to turn her shoulder and accent the curve of her breast.

There were quite a few stares of male appreciation, both open and covert. There were nearly as many female eyes glued to the girl, as well, but sadly those appeared to be seething with hatred, Shocker noted wryly.  

Hello, there is one not concerned about my date in the least, he thought to himself.  A teenaged Kate Upton type out with her parents was looking him up and down in frank sexual appraisal.  He gave her an inviting smile.  Suddenly, she blinked, broke eye contact and turned her back to him.  

Ah, she must have recognized me he thought to himself with only the slightest regret.  Then he glanced over at his date and realized he’d called that one wrong.  

Oksana was staring at the retreating blonde with intense, implacable, hard Russian fury.  If young Doctor Kerensky’s eyes were capable of producing laser beams, the retreating blonde would have been burned to ashes seconds ago.

Their entrance complete, his date tried to tug him toward the new tower that had been added in During the 1981 restoration.  The Grand Plaza had been given a much needed shot in the arm by the DeVos family back then.

“Not yet,” he said to her.  “We’ll have cocktails at the Lumber Baron first.”  

She nodded her assent to this and together they swept through the lobby of the old Pantlind Hotel past a gloriously huge christmas tree, around a baroque gilded fountain, towards the Lumber Baron Bar.  Shocker noted with considerable approval the glance of disgust his date shot at the entrance to the Ruth Chris steakhouse now squatting atop the ruins of the 1913 room.  

As they entered, Aux turned to him.  “Could you find us a table? I need to powder my nose.”

“Of course,” he replied in some gratitude that she wasn’t insisting on being more specific on the biological necessity in question.  “Should I order something for you?

“I thought you weren’t paying?” She lifted her damned eyebrow at him.

“I never said I was,” he chuckled dryly.  “I was asking if you wanted me to order something for you”

“I’ll have a word with the barman,” Aux singsonged.

“A lady who pays for her own drinks,” Shocker stated in open wonder.

“Who said I was paying?” Aux appeared bewildered at the very notion.

Aux parted company with Shocker at the door, having dropped his arm and fallen a couple of steps behind him.  Shocker saw her head straight to the bartender and gave him a few quick instructions.

As far as anyone could tell they weren’t together.  Shocker didn’t take it personally, he rarely took anything personally including personal insults.

Shocker took a Jesse James seat in the corner and looked around the bar room.

///Oksana goes to the head pivoting every head in the room///

A waiter with a smooth face, crisp white shirt, and bow tie arrived at the table before the Russian girl did, transporting two drinks on his tray.  Shocker nodded his thanks as they were set before him.  The waiter held the chair for Doctor Kerensky.  She descended into it with a dancer’s graceful plie.  Well, I knew her mother was trained as a ballerina, he thought to himself.

He picked up his own drink, wondering what the girl had ordered for him.  He looked about the room until he spotted a man scowling at him.  Shocker lifted his glass and winked brightly at him in thanks for his generosity.

He took a sip while the girl took a brief look at the menu.  Lagavulin sixteen year; Shocker recognized and approved. Rather a lot.

The girl was now taking a more in depth look at the menu.  “I’ll cancel the reservations for the Cygnus,” he said with a restrained smile.  She nodded, not quite absently.  

Shocker motioned the waiter back over.  After a few murmured instructions on subject of eating here and putting the scotch on his own tab, he treated himself to a long, hard look into his dates’ eyes ///describe snow princess eyes///

Cahn finally took a look at the menu

“About the thing we need to discuss,”  she said.

“Yes?” Cahn replied while studying the menu.

She took a long deep breath as if to steady herself for something and then slowly exhaled. “I’d like you to marry me.”

“Okay, fine. What are you ordering?” Shocker replied distractedly, trying to decide between the Atlantic Salmon Oscar and Bacon Braised Beef Brisket


“The Bacon Braised Beef Brisket,” The future Oksana Cahn answered with reasonable calm.


Shocker was jerked out of his reverie by a long, low penetrating howl from above them.

How the fuck did they get up there?  He wondered.

At about that moment his phone went off.  

*You got the touch!*
*You got the pow-wer-er!!!*

Seriously, John? Shocker pulled out his phone. Now?  

Then his jaw tightened as he read the text.

“What do you have on you?” Shocker asked the half naked Russian scientist with the shapely legs.

She smiled seductively and slowly unzipped her purse..


Brett Castillo was staring out of the VIP box window with his nine year old arms crossed, playing with a braid of five-fifty cord. His Dad have given it to him.  Dad viewed five-fifty cord as the answer to about everything.

As a game of strategy and tactics, he couldn’t help but find football fascinating. So much depended on odds, placement and counterbalance.   Yet so much still depended upon luck, as well.

The student usher who had been more or less assigned to baby sit them had gone off to get their soft drink orders.   

Brett was honestly trying to root for the Spartans.  It had been his Dad’s team after all.  But It wasn’t in his nature.  The truth was that this was just a little more interesting to him then setting off a war between Army Ants and watching the results.

He wasn’t a fan.  He didn’t have favorite players.  In fact, the idea of having an athlete for a hero was an utterly alien one to Brett. Not a repulsive idea, you understand.  Just alien to his nature with the possible exception of the right quarterback. The intellectual exercises in reading the opposing line and then quickly calculating a response plan intrigued him.  His Dad had gotten very excited when Brett had asked if he could teach him how to throw a football.  Brett had never done anything like that before.

That was right before his mother had destroyed Brett’s family for her own amusement.  

His newly acquired stepfather had actually taken him down to the practice field to throw the ball around a couple of times with Roy Scheer. Roy had pretended to be friendly for a couple of minutes, but he clearly found some of Brett’s questions odd and off-putting.  Which Brett was used to.

Still, Brett had made a big show of being grateful to Gary.  He was doing his level best to let everyone know he was bonding like crazy with his new stepfather. That he valued Gary’s beliefs, and honored his contributions to the world of academic social science.  Brett had even done a book report at school on one of Gary’s books.  Every chance he got, he would brag to adults about being the son of the President of Michigan State University.

It would make things go a lot more smoothly when he murdered Garrison Wheaton.

He had had a couple of ideas set in motion for that little project already.  Sadly, those were all on hold for the moment.  Dad was in too close a proximity to Gary right now.  If the police correctly determined that it was murder, Dad would be the most likely suspect.  That couldn’t happen.

It would be far preferable to pin the blame on Mom, but that wouldn’t be easy.  Mom was almost as sharp as he was.  And she was much more experienced when it came to matters of deviousness.  

There was also the problem of him never having murdered anyone before, but it shouldn’t be too difficult.  He had hunted with Dad and his brothers, he never felt anything negative when he killed an animal. In truth, he somewhat enjoyed it.  He was quite certain that he was high enough on the psychopathic leg of the Dark Triad that he would feel no ill effects from murdering Gary at all...unless he got caught. He would definetly feel bad about that for any number of reasons.

He was jarred out of this line of thought by a punch in the shoulder.  He didn’t move.

After a moment he blindly punched back, connecting very solidly with Garrett who always fell for that trick.  Then Brett actually smiled.

He turned, ducked and weaved, his eyes locked on his middle brother’s eyes.  Garrett grinning wildly tried a couple of fents that never worked on Brett. Before shooting in blind for a leg to grapple.

“Knock it off, shitheads!” Josh barked at the both of them.  “I’m watching the game.”

They both settled down almost instantly.  Then Brett sent off one last punch into Garrett’s shoulder.  Which his brother accepted as the price for having started it.

Josh watched his little brother worriedly for a couple of moments and then put a protective arm around his shoulder.  At nine, Brett was young enough to not shrug it off, yet.  Josh could read him almost as well as Shocker could.

Down on the gridiron, the ball was snapped.

“Scheer’s gonna run it in!” Garrett screamed excitedly.

“You’re right,” Brett said.  U of M’s play book for this game had clearly been built around Scheer’s throwing.  It had created an exploitable weakness.  Scheer wasn’t quite a Cam Newton but he was in that neighborhood.
The boys watched the white and green clad figure charge through a hole in the line.

Well played, Brett thought to himself.  Then his attention was drawn to some other figures charging out on to the field.  Why the hell was U of M’s band charging out on the field? Were they trying to...

...Oh, Brett then realized.  That’s why

“What the fuck?” Garrett blurted, putting a twelve year old boy’s emphasis on the F-bomb.  He was slightly worried when Josh didn’t bother to play the grownup and correct him.  “What’s going on?”

“We’re under attack,” Brett said in his emotionless voice.  The one he used when he was really concentrating

The screams of the stadium suddenly buffeted the VIP box so much the glass rattled.  Brett watched, intrigued as the Zombies ran down Roy Scheer.  That was a shame, He thought.  We don’t have a chance against Ohio, now.

Brett looked to his right and watched the men and women in the other skyboxes bolting for the rear.  Where do they think they are going? The stairs are going jammed before they can get out of the stadium.  Others were still seated in their boxes, looking out at the field glassy eyed, unable to accept that something terrible was happening in front of them and that they now had to do something about it.  Anything at all would be better than what they were doing, which was just going through the motions of being at a game, somehow convinced that everything was going to fine if they behaved like robots that had been abandoned to their tasks during an apocalypse.

“Josh,” Garrett asked in a small voice.  “Are we safe up here?”  

Josh licked his lips slightly, just like Dad did when he was thinking.  “Brett?” Josh asked the brains of the outfit.

Brett considered a moment before answering.  “Safer, Not safe.  The stair wells will be packed, so I doubt if the Zombies could get up that way.  I haven’t seen any news feeds about them being able to operate elevators. So that’s out.” He said reasonably.  “However, the crowd is in a panic which means they are going to try everything at once. Everyone knows height means safety with these things”  Brett concluded.  “We are probably going to have company.”

Josh looked around their Stepfather’s VIP box.  There wasn’t a lot to work with.  The jet black Premium seating was bolted to the deck with premium bolts. There was one fire extinguisher.  That was potentially useful.

If a fire broke out.

“The door has a lock,” Brett observed.

“And we don’t ha-a-ave the..” Garrett lead sarcastically.

“We don’t need the key,” Brett replied a little annoyed. the lock had key holes on both sides for some reason.  “Josh  has his leatherman.”

“How the hell is that supposed to lock the...”

Josh was already bounding up the steps to the door.  Leatherman multi tool in hand. The bright cold steel comforting somehow.  He flicked out the phillips head and attacked the screws on the back plate of the deadbolt. Once he got the back plate off, he could throw the bolt.  They would be stuck there until somebody came along and dug them out.  But they weren’t going anywhere for a while, anyway.

Josh cell phone blew Reveille at that point.  Speaking of...”Garret,” Josh was the only one of them trusted with a smartphone as yet.  He tossed his brother the cell.  “Answer it, It’s Dad.”

Brett paid half of his attention to Garret.  The other was focused on the scene before him.  Yes, the zombies were in the stands now and then entire stadium was in a panic.  

An announcer was trying to keep his voice calm and professional.  “Please remain calm and in your seats.  If you must leave please do so in an orderly fashion.”  He began an almost robotic repetition of this mantra but emphasizing different syllables as he went along. “Please remain calm and in your...”

An alarm went off.  It wasn’t a fire alarm.  A different voice was urging people over the loudspeakers to be calm and remain in their seats.  This voice was recorded.

“Security lock down,” Brett observed tonelessly.  “Some idiot has decided this is clearly a terrorist attack.”

“Dad!  Dad! It’s Garrett...”

A pause while the phone buzzed in their father’s voice.

“Josh is busy!  We’re in trouble, Dad!  Where are you?!”  

Frantic buzzing, then a pause.  Followed by a questioning buzz.

“Okay. We’re in Dick Breath’s skybox.”

The phone buzzed sternly.

“I mean Gary.  Sorry Dad.  We’re in Gary’s Skybox.”

*buzz...buzz*

“No he’s not here.  How did you know, Dad?”

*buzz...buzz* “...Dick Breath...” *buzz*

“Oh yeah, that.  I-I don’t know.  He had one of the ushers looking after us but he’s gone now. Gary isn’t here.”.  At that point Garret, started tearing up.  “And no one is here except for Brett and Josh and Zombies are in the stadium.  They killed Roy Scheer and they are killing anyone they can get ahold of and everyone is screaming.  Dad you have to come get us!  YOU HAVE TO COME GET US NOW!!”

Brett slapped a hand over Garrett’s mouth.  Garrett turned in a twelve year old fury and then stopped cold.  Brett looked scared.  Really scared.

His baby brother didn’t get scared.  He just didn’t.  He wasn’t wired for it at all.  It was one of those were weird things that were wrong with him but for the first time in his life, Brett looked scared.

“Listen,” Brett whispered

Garrett heard lots of screaming.  There had been nothing but screaming for ten minutes. Wait, was it even one minute?  

But then Garrett heard something that he had missed before.  A long mournful scream that was as untouched by fear as Brett usually was.
“Forget it! We got to go!”  Josh snapped at this brothers.

“No Josh! Stop!” Brett whisper shouted.  “We are safer in here.”   He held up his hands in a placating gesture.   “All of the security gates on the stair wells came down automatically because of the security alert.  It’s being done by remote control.  WE ARE ALREADY TRAPPED UP HERE!”

There was another howl.

Brett and Garrett crouched down to the floor as quietly as they could and scuttled over to the glass partition.  There was only one in Gary’s box.  The President of MSU’s box was on the goal line.  Josh was now frantically disassembling the lock.

Brett and Garrett, barely peaking over the edge of a partition saw the first of the them pour into a VIP box that still had some football fans in denial.  Except they were no longer in denial.  Eyes wide in horror at the demons that had broken into the room, backpedaling, arms raised, open hands outstretched.  Pleading for mercy from things that simply couldn’t even remember the concept.

Running backwards down a staircase is never the best idea.  The fat man closest to the zombies was the first one to trip. He sent his family and friends tumbling down behind him like dominoes.  The Zombies flooded over them in an instant.

One of their number decided to take his chances with gravity.  The VIP box’s window was already open and the man in Green and White face paint jumped out of it, one of the Zombies almost comically scrambling after him over the side.

At least Garrett didn’t have to watch that, Brett thought to himself, sympathetically.  This is going to bother him a lot.  Assuming we survive.

“Dad, please hurry,” Garrett whispered into the phone.


“GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!” John roared at the crowd as his lead truck bounced its way up to the grass on the far side of the stadium.  It was near exit gates that were vomiting terrified people into the parking lot.  The other Tacomas were right behind his.own.

If they were going to do any good at all they needed to get inside.  They needed to get into a high position.  The fact that that also meant getting to his sons before they were killed worked out pretty well, for once.  This was all being done without any kind of authority.  For once, just for fucking once in his life, duty could take a back seat to what he needed.

In his deepest heart he still felt slightly...if only ever so slightly...guilty about it.  Lie. Cheat. Steal.  Mission accomplishment comes first.  Your family comes second.  For what little it’s worth to your family, what you want comes third.  That’s the deal when you sign your life away on that thin sheet of paper (press down hard you’re making four copies).

Back to business.

He needed an elevated position and the elevators were out.  Security lock down appeared to be in place.  No elevator, no stairs.  Normally he’d repel down to the roof from a helicopter, but wasn’t happening.  Recruiting Stations didn’t have those, much as he would have loved one.

They were going to have to go up the outside of Spartan Stadium.

And there was no way to do it.  The Army was working on Gecko Gloves which would let you spiderman up the side of a building.  But Recruiting Stations didn’t have those either.

Time to go old school.  

“Top, I’m gonna need the rope,” John called to his station chief as he kicked open the tool chest in truck bed.  A quick recon won him the prizes of a cross shaped 4 way lug wrench and a heavy ass pipe wrench.  

John slapped the pipe wrench transversely across the lug wrench and started furiously lashing them together.  “I’ll need that rope, now Top!”  In a couple of minutes he would have a solid field expedient...

“Or we could use the actual grappling hook I brought along, sir” Top said in his gravelly voice. “It’s attached to a rope already everything, sir.”  He added somewhat over helpfully.

Major Castillo snatched it up with a forced smile. “Plan B it is!”  

Reaching the top of the Stadium was seven stories.  That wasn’t happening without a specialized propellant gun, which the Marine Corps had also neglected to provide it’s Recruiting Stations with.  But there was, just off to the side of the section of the stadium with the VIP boxes, a four story ramp that acted as a human cattle chute.  The top of that was reachable.

Barely, just.


John started spinning the hook, his eyes looking through his target, and then he let fly.


Josh heard the cry of the howler.

He looked over his shoulder at Brett and Garrett.  

Brett, who was taking a peek over the top of the partition, gave a quick nod.  Josh didn’t need an explanation.  They had been targeted.

He set back to work.  Trying to shut out the sound of the approaching hands and feet slapping rhythmically on the floor.  One more screw.  A final turn and it falls, there is a small clang as the tiny metal plate strikes the floor.  Trying not to imagine the smiling, joyless faces of the monsters that were once men coming to rip him and his brothers to pieces. Josh starts sliding, painfully slowly, sliding the bolt using the edge of his blade.  The metal on metal keeps futilely scrapping  because his blade can’t get a good purchase. Trying not wonder what their teeth will feel like when they bite into.  *click*  The bolt shot home.

Suddenly there was a crash and dozen thuds against a door that bulged inward.  There was large, painful creak of wood moaning from the latch.  

Josh walked back down the steps to join his little brothers. He wouldn’t leave them alone for what was coming.


John finished cinching off a length of the rope around a roof stack he was using as an improvised cleat.  The pounding of his heart was panic driven.  He had cursed the the moments needed to tie off the second rope but he was going to need back up.

He hurled the hank over the side and charged towards the other side of the ramp.   Top could unfuck the rest from there.  

John reached a point just below the window and unslung his Springfield Armories M-1.  As targets went this one was almost too big for him.  The side window, the farside VIP box.

.  *WHANG* .

The window spiderwebbed.

*WHANG*   *WHANG*

The wind resistant glass shattered.  John had to dance back to avoid the slashing diamond rainfall.  He pranced forward just as quickly.  His grapple already spinning.

Almost there, boys.  Almost there.

The grapple flew.

And then gave a sad hollow clang as it bounced off the side of the stadium about six feet short.

“Come on!  Come the fuck on, Old One!” He cursed himself. One little lame ass rope climb can’t take this much out you at thirty-five.

A treacherous little voice in his head whispered, but what about the getting chased all over campus by Zombies and then getting your foot gouged open?  Wouldn’t that take it out of any body.  Even Super John?

Despair probed at his heart.  He might not make it in time.

Super John doesn’t listen to stupid little voices!”  He roared as he launched the grappling hook.  Sailing it cleanly through the shattered window.


No one knows the hour.  Josh had been taught that in Sunday School.  He had heard it more then once in church.  But Josh had taken it for granted that he was going to have more time then this.  

Is this really all the time I get?  I didn’t even kiss a girl.  Well there was Karla, but they were both seven, that hardly counts.

“Garrett! Don’t”

Josh spun his head around, as he heard the VIP Boxes window opening.  “Stop it!

“We don’t have a choice, Josh!” Garrett snapped.

He was right but the odds weren’t good.  It was going to be a lo-o-o-ong drop  to the upper tier seats. And then they would be landing on a very irregular surface.  No impact roll would be possible. At the very least, he and his brothers were all looking at broken bones, if not broken necks.  And then they would be totally stuck there. Immobile. Their chances weren’t good.

On the other hand, their chances of surviving being eaten by Zombies were considerably lower.

“Hang on!” Brett said, while he was frantically untying his precious braid of five-fifty cord Dad had given him.  “There is about twelve feet of cord here.  That will improve the odds a little.”  

*CRASH*

Something caught their ears.  The side window on the far side of the VIP Gallery blew apart like it had been hit with a five hundred pound brick.

“Dad’s here!”

Josh did some quick calculations.  The five-fifty cord  could just barely hold the weight of all three of them, but it wasn’t going to be long enough to do them to a safe drop  but if they could lengthen it with something...anything.  Any little bit would help.  “Shirts off! Sheet bend the sleeves to each other.

Brett shook his head while kicking off his shoes.  “Won’t work.  The worn cotton polyester won’t take our weight.”  His baby brother unbuckled his belt.  “But Denim will.”

“Oh great,” Garrett snapped while unbuckling his own belt, “Just great.  There are cameras out there”  he said while kicked off his jeans. “Just saying,”.

Brett grabbed them and immediately set about tying a Sheet Bend knot at the cuffs.  Garrett grabbed Josh’s jeans as he threw them at him and started knotting those legs together.  Josh himself was anchoring the five-fifty cord to the now deeply appreciated Premium bolted seats.


John was scaling the outside wall.  Nothing to this one at all.  Nothing he hadn’t been doing since he was new boot.  And nothing bigger in his life had ever been on the line. If he wasn’t fast enough...  

His hands were already bloody from popped blisters.  His inner voice chided him for letting them get so soft while he was doing pogue duty in Recruiter Land.

He needed to let other thoughts intrude while he plodded up the wall.  How much backup could Anguiano send his way?  Every Marine is a rifleman, not a mountain goat.  How many of his guys were too fat and out of shape from life behind a steering wheel to get up the rope?  Well, less than there were two months ago, when Sergeant Timmons decided to eat his way out of the Marine Corps.  District had shit itself sideways over that one and Shocker had gone through the ranks in a terrifying physical fitness inquisition   And that little shit ball Styles had decided she would rather destroy a great Marines’ career than get back in shape.

John blinked the cold sweat out of his eyes. It had worked.  His mind had been off one problem long enough to almost deal with another.  Almost there, boys.  Almost there.


Red shrouded his vision and his deepest heart.  There was truth and purity in this rage unleashed.  It burned all the little things away that bothered a man.  

He charged at full speed down the the hall way.  His heart was beating at a count of better than one hundred eighty per minute.  He could hear it hammering in his ears.  He saw the Others at the far door and he knew he had to get them as fast as inhumanly possible.  

He heard the door crack. Then break as the lock lost it’s heroic battle with the Others.

He saw them pouring into the room. There was no extra speed to be found.  In truth it was as if the world was in slow motion.  If felt to him as if his feet were encased in molasses, although anyone who saw him would have only seen a blur.



Josh screamed like a girl when the door broke open and the came pouring.  His young man’s heart found space for a little embarrassment about that.

Don’t freeze while looking at them!  Don’t freeze while looking at them!  Don’t freeze while looking at them!  Josh fought hard against panic.  He had turn around and he had to do it now.  

He planted toe and drove heel in and about-face and threw their makeshift escape rope out of window.

Brett was the first out of the window, shooting after the rope like a monkey after a banana.  Out he went facedown.  

Josh forced himself to not look back.  No amount of lookie-loo was going to slow them down or speed up Garrett who was taking too much time turning himself around to back out the damn window.

“GO! GO! GO!” Josh yelled at Garrett.

And the moment Garrett did it, he knew he had just killed himself.  Garrett would take two desperately needed seconds to answer back.  Garrett alway answered back.  Always.

Garrett stopped at the edge of the window to shout back, “I’m hurrying.”

Josh felt despair creep into his heart.  His brother had just killed him.  No matter how fast he moved now there just wouldn’t be enough time.

Not enough time for the rope he suddenly thought to himself.  I can just vault through and free fall and hope for the best.  Josh’s hands were on the frame and his foot was on the ledge.  Maybe he could make it.  He saw Garrett had frozen with his head still above the ledge.

He had to get that idiot...

Josh felt hands like steel cables wrap themselves around his wrists and arms.   Hot panting was on his neck as he was pulled off the ledge.  His eyes were locked on the window.  “Go Garrett!  Go!” He screamed again as he was pushed to the floor.  The bodies of these things jostling for position to tear him apart.

He heard Garrett’s scream get even louder.  The sound changed.  He couldn’t see him but he knew Garrett had been dragged back inside.

Just Dad and Brett now, he thought a little sadly.  I guess this is all the time I get.  He felt the moist hot breath on his neck and clamped his eyes tight.  Hoping he wouldn’t scream again.


His momentum almost betrayed him as he saw the last of the Others go through the broken door.  He slid on one knee almost past it, then vaulted inward. Heart pounding now with anticipation.   The Prey would be inside.


John cleared the window ledge just as he saw his eldest son dragged down by the Zombies.  He brought up the M-1 and knew it was going to be useless.  There was too much thick glass in the way between him and his boys.  Too much parallax for the gun sights to be anywhere near accurate.  

He saw Garrett screaming as he was dragged back into the VIP box by his hair.

John roared and brought up the M-1 without any conscious thought at all and started firing.  The windows went into a foggy spiderweb.  He couldn’t see what was happening to his children but he could hear it and that made it so much worse.


The Prey was indeed in this room it was time for him to feast and feast well.  They were all packed in a very tight bunch.  Time to do be what he was born to be..

Two kids were screaming at the top their lungs as teeth closed in on them.

His mouth was open in anticipation.

The concussion in such a small room would be deafening.  His thumb cocked the Smith and Wesson governor as it came up on the Prey that was sinking its teeth into Garrett. The Crimson Trace laser painting a red dot on it’s head.

The 2 1/2 .410 pistol shell went off like a flash bang in the small room.  It actually caught the Zombie’s pretty limited attention.  Except for one he had been aiming at  That one collapsed in a heap on top of Garrett, a little hole in the front of it it’s head and big one in the back, bright red blood and just bit of brain leaking out.  

Zombie blood didn’t look right to him for some reason.  He would have to ask Aux about it, he thought to himself as he brought up her second gun, a Chiapa Rhino three fifty-seven, cocking it with it’s false hammer and aiming in on the one that was on top of Josh..  

The Rhino wasn’t quite as loud when it went off.  Or maybe his hearing was just too stunned already.  Too bad, it was about to get worse.  He had ten shots left.  He noted the lighter-feeling recoil of the of the Rhino due to it’s under barrel design sending its powerful recoil into his forearm instead of just his wrist. He adjusted his next attack accordingly.

Two Gun Mojo is for action flicks and utter chumps.  There is maybe one percent of one percent of the population that can do it.

Lucky for the boys, he was what he was. Also, the Crimson Trace on the Governor helped a lot, he didn’t really need to aim that one just his peripheral vision and point it .  While truly aiming a second gun with his direct line of eyesight.  

The triggers broke at almost the same moment.  Two more hit the floor in dead heap of flesh and blood. Going from five hundred percent to zero in an instant.

The rest were ignoring the boys now, which was good.  The Prey were now shamblin up the stairs at him.  Much tighter group, which was way better.  

The front two looked at him and stopped in apparent confusion.  As if they couldn’t accept that he was attacking them.  Shocker appreciated the break while he capped off two in the middle, creating another barrier for the ones behind them.  

The problem was that there were twelve more of these things, and he only had eight rounds left.  

He would have to go very old school in a moment.

John, from the entire length of a football field, heard the distinctive sound of a magnum cylinder dump.  The blasting went on for better than one second, and John suddenly felt the terrible burden of hope.  The “Great Cahn” had made it in time.  Maybe.  Please God. Maybe.

He charged up the boxes stairs and down the hall, running with a clomping gallop of the Mickey Mouse Boots.  It should have taken him twenty seconds to run a hundred yards in those things, but he was going to do it in twelve.

No more shooting.  Those had been revolvers shots.  Reloading those in a CQB fight was a non-starter. But he could hear something going on up ahead but he wasn’t sure what.

Panting hard, he rounded the corner bringing his M-1 up to bear. Just in time to see Shocker crush a Zombie’s skull with a fire extinguisher.

There were two left alive.  

He actually made Shocker jump when he blew apart the first one.  He couldn’t help but be pleased about that.  Then he saw that Garrett was bleeding.  John’s lips drew back into a fury as he blasted the last one to pieces, emptying the magazine to do it.

Walking towards his middle son, terrified, he heard a groan from one of Zombies and smashed it’s brains out with the rifle butt.

“Dad?” Came a plaintive voice from outside the window.  John rushed to it, sparing Garrett’s shocked face a glance.  

A moment later Brett was hauled back into the room and into his father’s crushing arms.

“Can’t breathe Dad,” came a straining gasp.

“Garrett, are you bit?” he heard Josh ask.

“Yeah,” came a shaky answer.

“Noooo,” heard a whine like a little puppy from his youngest boy still in his arms.

Footsteps running down the hall. Boots.

John’s backup had finally caught up with him.  Top was the first one through the door.  He stopped, shocked to his core for a second.  Then he locked himself down and threw Shocker a spare rifle that he had slung over his massive shoulder.

Eight more Marines hustled into the room.  

Ten rifles at about forty rounds per man and a very target rich environment.

John put down his son who ran to his middle brother and threw his arms around him silently crying.  John walked to the open window with a look on his face as cold as the grave.  

“Stand to, Marines,” he said.  “Pick your targets. Aim carefully and engage.



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