Enjoy this generous sample of Kirk Allmond’s book set in the What Zombies Fear ‘universe’!!
Chapter 1 Pinned Down
Victor took a minute to assess the situation. He and Max were pinned down in the back field behind Marshall’s farm. The party was destroyed, shambling zombies waded in packs between the overturned tables and chairs, stumbling and falling. Gunfire came from every direction; Marshall’s men were well trained and well outfitted.
“Fuck you, Charlie,” Victor thought to himself. The shamblers were just there to use up Marshall’s ammunition. Their job was to absorb bullets, so the forces of LEGION would be low on supplies before he sent in the lieutenants.
Charlie and Victor had spent countless nights talking about defensive strategies before the E’Clei took him. And now they knew how Victor thought.
Marshall was god knows where. Supers were dropping off groups of zombies every couple of seconds. The sound of gunfire was everywhere, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, somewhere out in the desert John was in real trouble.
He looked around, desperate to come up with solutions. The lives of his friends were at stake. The E’Clei could keep throwing bullet sponges at them until they were out of bullets. Then Marshall’s men would switch to hand-to-hand combat. That’s when the supers would show up. And this scenario was playing itself out at John’s too.
Explosions rocked the ground, sending clods of turf and rotten body parts flying. Marshall’s men were using pipe bombs to dismember and slow the shamblers.
“Watch your feet!” Victor called out. “Heads can still bite.”
There was no other choice. He knew she hated when he came to her for help, but she had to understand this time. “Hey, Kris, John’s in trouble. Any chance you and Alicia could head out to his hou…”
Victor’s thought was cut off by a horrific mental scream, powerful enough to knock him to the ground, clutching his head. The energy in her anguish rattled in Victor’s head. He put his hands on the ground, and stayed there, on all fours for several seconds before he spotted Max in much the same position.
Behind Max, hundreds of miles to the north, Victor saw Kris’s aura burning so bright it was as if she were standing directly in front of him. It was spun of threads of red, whirling and spinning around her, bright enough to illuminate the darkness to Victor’s eyes, like a red sun sitting on the ground up north in Tennessee.
When the wail subsided, Victor felt blood running out of his ears. Max was laying on his back on the ground, and Marshall was carving a path towards him. There were suddenly thousands of zombies in the yard.
“Max,” called Victor weakly. “Maxmonster, you gotta get up, buddy.” He tried to focus his mind, willing himself to move, despite a deep pain. Everything hurt, from his toenails to his hair. The man grunted as he stood, then stumbled towards his son. Max was unconscious on the ground, blood running from his ears.
“Max!” Victor yelled, “Oh Max. Max, come on, wake up buddy.” He sat on the ground with his son’s head in his lap, stroking his shaggy hair out of his face. “Come on, Max. Please, wake up. Wake up.” Tears ran down Victor’s face. Max’s pulse was weak, and his breathing was labored. Pain, like ten thousand migraine headaches pounded against Victor’s brain.
Max’s eyes opened, slowly. He moved his hand to his father’s arm. “I’m okay, Dad,” he said weakly, little more than a croak. “What was that?”
“Kris,” said Victor. “She’s in trouble too. I’m not sure what the hell that was about.”
Over to the side of the battle, Reggie watched the proceedings. He briefly glanced upward for a moment before his eyes fell back on Max. “No, not now. He cannot. I will do it.” Reggie seemed to listen for a moment, his head tilted. The old man shook his head and said, “This was too clever. They cannot be allowed to fail.”
The ancient black man tottered over towards the father and son, blood running from his own ears. “Mister Tookes,” he said. “I beg you, please sir, go get Miss Thompson. She is not in her right mind.”
“I can’t leave Max. I can’t leave Marshall and Ren here, Reggie. She’ll have to wait.”
Reggie saw the genius of the zombies plan. They’d countered each of the heroes. They used their love and their loyalty to each other to paralyze their ability to fight. “Mister Tookes, if you do not, we will not survive. Time is short, you must go to her. I will make sure young Master Tookes is cared for, and that your brother and sister survive.”
“Reggie, how?” Victor struggled to his feet and drew his gun and hatchet. “Watch Max. I’ll handle this, and then I’ll go get Kris and John.”
“No, Mister Tookes. You must go now. It cannot wait; Kris will destroy herself in seconds.” Reggie slowly held his gnarled hand up. His fingers were crooked with arthritis, each knuckle swollen to twice the size of the finger bones it connected. His milky eyes looked upward, and then they settled on the zombies, completely clear. Victor heard a low vibration, and felt it in his chest, like the lowest bass note from the car in front of you, it rattled, building in intensity.
A giant blue wave shot out of Reggie’s hand, carrying the sound with it, rolling like the tide through the hoard of zombies. When each came in contact with the wave, they collapsed, and then slowly turned to dust. Reggie sank to his knees, clearly weakened. “Now, Mister Tookes, please go. Time is very short. I’ll see to Master Tookes.”
“Reggie, how…” Victor started.
The grizzled old man looked at him, his eyes glowed bright blue. “Go!” he yelled. Reggie’s voice was hollow, powerful. It was a command and a plea all at the same time. As Victor fixed the image of Gander Acres in his mind, the old milkyness returned to Reggie’s eyes. The last thing Victor saw as he disappeared was Reggie clasping Max’s hand to help him to his feet.
Victor materialized, but it was different than normal. Like it was forced, as if something interrupted his travel. He appeared hundreds of feet from his target, at the edge of a dome. The dome wasn’t Kris’ normal polychromatic swirl of rainbows, this one was solid red, and inside a fire raged. It was Atlanta all over again. The fire blossomed inside, sweeping across the ground, building on its own heat contained within the dome. At the center, Kris stood, tears streaming down her face, cloaked in fire. Her clothes were burned away, her hair on fire, streaming out around her head.
He solidified his aura around himself and touched the dome with his finger. Where his aura touched the dome it turned red, her pain and anger infusing itself within him, infecting him. He fought to stay focused. He had to get to her, he had to save her.
Victor focused on memories of the two of them, their friendship, and the common bond they shared, fighting back her rage. He thought about her wedding to Alicia and how beautiful she looked standing there beside her. How perfect the two of them were for each other, how much love they shared, and pushed forward, through the dome.
Everywhere around him was fire. He was an ice blue form slowly staggering through a sea of heat, struggling to maintain his shield, the thin layer protecting him from the raging inferno all around. Each step was like wading through lava. His head roared with pain as he fought to maintain control. He watched his aura flaking off like ash, turning red before dissipating.
He finally reached her in the center, and stopped in front of her. “Kris, you have to stop. We have to go.”
His words barely reached her. She sounded hollow. Ghostly. “They’re all gone, Vic. All of them. They…they took her from me.” Kris sounded like she was talking to herself. Other than using his name, Victor wasn’t really sure she was aware of him at all.
“I’m so sorry Kris. They’ll pay, we’ll make them pay. But you have to stop,” begged Victor. “I can’t hold out much longer, Kris.”
“You should go, Vic. You shouldn’t have come. There’s nothing left for me,” she said. “And I’m not planning on seeing what tomorrow is like without her.” The inferno around them grew, as if intensified by her words.
“I’m sorry, Kris,” said Victor. He drew back and punched her in the temple as hard as he could. The dome dropped and the fire escaped into the atmosphere. The rush of air filling the void left by the flames in the center of what used to be Gander Acres knocked Victor down on top of her.
Desperately, he teleported the two of them to Renee’s farm.
Tookes struggled to his feet, grimacing in pain. He stood for a second while he steeled himself to continue fighting, but there was no one around. He searched for Max, but he wasn’t in the area. Neither was Marshall or Renee. In fact, there wasn’t an aura for miles. ‘Where are you, Buddy?’
“Home. Can’t talk. Gramma’s in trouble, I got it though.”
“They’re attacking the house?”
“Yeah, Dad. Same as everyone else. Go get John.”
Victor knelt and put his hand on Kris’s shoulder. “I’m taking orders from him now,” he mumbled, just before he disappeared.
Yuma was hot, even for this time of year. Victor surveyed the town from his vantage point on top of John’s wall; there were zombies everywhere. Thousands of them; they were crawling over every inch of the town, on the roofs of the houses, swarming away from the wall where they entered the town in their search for anything living.
He shot two zombies approaching on the wall; a tactical mistake. Every head in Yuma turned to look up at the giant wall, and the only two living creatures in the town. Each zombie, almost in unison turned around and started making its way towards the him.
Victor looked up and to the right, towards the top of the cliff. He put his foot gently on Kris’s still unconscious body and reappeared there. He knelt beside her and shook her a little.
“Kris. Wake up.” he said, but she was out. He hadn’t hit her hard enough to leave her unconscious this long. The wind screamed along the top of the cliff, dry and hot; blowing in his face. Tookes focused his mind on the woman and thought, “Kris, can you hear me? I need you to wake up. John’s in trouble and I’m not sure I can save him without you.”
Vague images came back to his mind. No words – just pictures as if he was looking through her eyes. He saw her feet. She was standing in a freshly mowed field and the sun was shining brightly in the sky. She moved her gaze from her feet to a pair of headstones, Edward and Margaret Thompson, April 12, 1999. On her shoulder were two, strong hands. He felt Kris’s gaze shift to meet the faces of an older couple. Victor’s own heart swelled with love for them.
Then there was a skip in time. Next he saw an old woman, lying in a hospital bed. The room was full of flowers, balloons and cards that said, “get well soon.” The items of well-wishes were all in sharp contrast to the reality surrounding them. There was no getting well this time. Kris was holding her hand, singing to the woman softly. The woman in the bed met Kris’s eyes and rasped something intelligible before the heart monitor went flat.
Another jump. Kris and a man, standing in a bar. She was hugging him, and he was whispering in her ear as a zombie stabbed him in the back. She was screaming. Then he saw the two of them together back in Atlanta beside the train, and her walking away from him; another disappointment.
Time flew again. He saw Alicia, beaten half to death; her face swollen and bruised. He saw Markus running, swarmed by zombies, tearing and ripping flesh from his body. Even with his extraordinary strength, there were too many of them. A man in military fatigues had a gun to Alicia’s head. He pulled the trigger. Then rage. Fire. Death. Darkness.
Victor had to physically pull himself out of her mind. She was trying to pull him in, to hold him there to experience her pain. He knew she needed to share the burden with someone else. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. There was so much going on, he had to think.
He scanned the horizon, looking for John’s aura. His head roared in pain. Every time he did anything the pain got worse.
He found John about six miles away. His aura was very dim – there wasn’t much time. He put his hand on Kris, and teleported to the barn back at the farm in Virginia. He appeared with her in the barn loft. It was the safest place he could think of. Two women looked up and saw him, and started towards him. “Tookes,” one of them said as Victor fell to one knee.
“No time,” he said, raising a hand. “I’ll be back in a minute with more wounded. She’s going to be a mess when she wakes up. I’m not sure I want her here when she does, but I can’t leave her like this. Please watch out for her, and if she wakes up tell her she’s safe.” The two women looked at each other and one opened their mouth to speak.
Victor poofed again, landing on the point where he’d seen John’s aura. He was knelt over Jo, tears running down his face. Two of his children were crying. The four of them were in a small cave, not much more than a recess behind a stone, but it was something solid at their back, and shade overhead. Dead zombies lay everywhere around them, hundreds of corpses in varying degree of rot. Buzzards circled overhead, intent on gorging themselves on the carrion feast John laid out below.
“John. We gotta go, man.” Victor said softly. “We gotta get them to safety.”
“She can’t move like this, mate. Her back’s broken, and she’s been bitten. She jumped in front of one,” he said looking up. “It was going for Charlie. She stuck her arm in its mouth. Why the hell would she do that!”
“She saved Charlie. We have to go, John. The desert is swarming with them. They’ll be here any second.” Victor could barely hold the tears back himself. He knew exactly why she did that. It was something he would do for Max. John knew why she did it too. He would have done the same for any one of the people in Yuma.
“John, I’m tapped out, man. I don’t know if I have enough gas in the tank to get myself home. But we have to get as far as we can. We have to get all four of you farther from here.” Victor’s head felt like Marshall was pounding on it with his sledgehammers. It was getting hard to stay standing and again, he shook his head to clear the fuzziness. He had to stay focused.
John coughed into the dirt, leaving a spattering of blood. “I’m done in, Mate. Take the kids,” he said, turning a bit. He had blood running from a dozen spots in his chest, and his lips were coated in blood. “Take the kids to safety, so I can know they’re Ok. I’m staying with Jo; I’m not going to make it much further.
Both kids started to cry. “No, Daddy, no. You have to come. You’ll be alright, nothing can kill you,” wailed Charlie, tears leaving clean streaks down his cheeks.
“You’ll be alright, little bugger,” said John reaching out for his two sons, forcing a smile. “Go with Tookes. He’ll take you to Max – he’ll keep you safe.” With a small sob, he pulled the kids in close for a hug. Victor took advantage of that, put one hand on Charlie’s head and the other on Jo’s foot. He used the last of his energy to bring them all to the barn.
Victor’s head felt like it was going to explode. He’d never teleported that many people that far before. He wasn’t even sure it was going to work, but they all arrived at the barn safely. He couldn’t leave John or Jo there, and he certainly wasn’t going to take the two kids and leave their parents in the desert to die.
Blackness crept in on the edge of his vision, narrowing his sight down to a small tunnel when he tried to stand again. Gunshots rang out from the gravel driveway just outside the barn. They were close. He had to get to his son. He stood to go help Max, took one step and fell face first into the wooden floor of the loft.
Chapter 2 Bookbinder
Charlie Bookbinder drew his pistol and looked out over the farm. He was on a ridge, about three hundred yards from the wall Victor had built. It was impressive. Victor, unlike his friends, had never given up; never stopped believing that one day the zombies would come. And he was right. That day was today. The day he finally got Victor Tookes. Bookbinder had memories of Tookes, and of Max.
The E’Clei queen attached directly to Charlie’s brain stem bristled at the thought of the child. Bookbinder shivered, and went over the plan in his mind. They had tens of thousands of soldiers just over the rise outside the range of the hourly patrols.
Tookes had six teams patrolling the wall every hour. Four separate squads ran scouting routes every four hours, but after nearly six months of sending soldiers in ones or twos at the house, those routes were never the same. Charlie had to give some respect to the man. Leave it to Victor to plan chaos.
The soldiers were grouped into five battalions of two-thousand. For each fifty soldiers, there was a Lieutenant and a Councilman for each group of twenty lieutenants. “Ten thousand zombies, two hundred supers, and ten Councilmen,” said Charlie to himself, reverting back to the human terms for E’Clei. “It’ll be enough.”
“We hope so,” droned the ten councilmen standing behind him in unison. “The child cannot be allowed to escape this time.”
They waited throughout the cool, drizzly afternoon until the appointed time. At exactly six o’clock in the evening eastern standard time, twelve attacks would be carried out simultaneously. Six here in what was The United States, three in China. Tookes and his friends were the primary targets, but there were groups like this throughout the world, immunes that had come together to protect small communities of humans. Bookbinder had planned this night for twelve years. Tonight he solidified his position as Queen, tonight he would take control of this world as his predecessors had failed to do.
Inside the house, Sharon was busy supervising the kitchen crew. These days not everyone ate in the dining hall, the residents had all built houses. Many people ate in their own house with their family these days, but nearly everyone came to the hall for a couple of meals per week. The hall was what drew the community together, and everyone was a part.
Sharon’s dining hall was a remodeled, refurbished indoor riding ring. It embodied the spirit of the town. Everyone worked together, for the common good. No one was paid a wage or a salary; everyone split the fruits of their labor evenly. The town lived or died together.
Sharon didn’t do much actual cooking anymore. After years of working under her watchful eye, the men and women who volunteered to cook with her were well trained. She always suspected that after her seventy-fifth birthday, Victor had asked people not to let her work so hard anymore. She was grateful for the rest. It was harder and harder to get up every day, but she still felt a need to be active and involved.
“Joseph darling, that bechamel is going to break, don’t stop whisking,” she called out to a burly man with a long red beard. “And make sure not to get any whiskers in it!”
“Yes Ma’am,” he replied, whisking harder than ever, despite the burn in his muscular arm.
“Andrea, how are the torts?”
A tall woman with fine features and close cropped, dark hair checked a timer hanging around her neck. “Four minutes, Ma’am.”
“Wonderful. Thank you all for your hard work,” she said, plunging her hands into the dish sink. She scrubbed a few pans, happily watching the commotion. Even now, she was the last one to leave the kitchens, never going to bed before every surface was scrubbed, every pot and pan put away, every knife sharpened, and every scrap of leftover food either sent to the men on the walls, or to a house with a sick person, or stored away in the deep underground cellar.
She was carrying a large ladle over towards the soup tureens when she heard the bells. Deep, loud bells ringing, first from the north, soon followed by the rest lining the walls.
“Oh my,” she said to herself, quickening her step. She moved as quickly as she could, covering all the food and shutting off the stoves before retreating back towards the manor house.
As Sharon walked, she could hear constant gunfire from the walls all around her. From all over the farm, children came streaming up into the manor through the massive wooden gate.
She stopped one girl who was about ten years old, her long red hair in two braids down her back. “Kaylin, where’s your brother?”
“He’s right behind me. He was loading magazines for Mr. Davis.”
“Thank you; please go into the library and help keep all the smaller children calm. I’ll be right in,” Sharon said.
The house shook as the first set of explosives outside the wall was triggered, and then another and another, until all six lines were blown. Starting twenty yards from the gate, Victor had buried explosives in lines every ten yards. The blasts were designed to push an attacking force back, if something ever got close enough with enough strength to threaten the Iron Gate. The gate itself was twenty feet high, made of two inch steel straps woven together and welded.
If anything made it through the Iron Gate, they found themselves inside a one hundred foot run, wide enough for two cars side by side, ending with a stone portcullis even Marshall couldn’t lift. It had taken Marshall and Markus, plus a crane to lift it into place, high above the second entrance. Once it was down, nothing on earth could move it. If they made it into the courtyard, they would die against the Stone Gate as Victor’s men hailed bullets, arrows, spears and boulders down upon them from the walls.
Sharon counted the last child entering the Manor. She saw the house guards running towards her. The house guard was Victor’s idea. He hand-picked three dozen men who were tasked with keeping the mansion safe in the event of an attack. The wall would keep the zombies out, but the smart ones could teleport right into the house. Any time there was a threat against the wall, the house went into lockdown. Victor trained these men mercilessly. They were his most important defense, protecting his home, his mother, and until recently, his child.
She quietly closed the door and moved into the library. Some of those children were going to lose someone they cared about tonight. They needed her more than Victor’s men did. She sat down in her leather chair and opened up a book. “The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster,” she read. “This was Victor’s favorite book when he was a boy.”
“Mrs. Tookes, when will Victor be back?”
“I don’t know, Lydia,” she replied kindly before continuing, “There was a boy named Milo, who didn’t know what to do with himself– not just sometimes, but always.”
Sharon read on, throughout the siege; keeping the children’s minds busy, keeping them from worrying about the gunfire, even when it was right outside the house. She and her son had chosen this room very deliberately. The library was lined from floor to ceiling with books, tightly packed into the shelves. There were no windows in the room, but two doors left them with an exit, in case one of the two steel fire doors was breached.
The battle raged on, outside the house and on the walls. Sharon knew from the distant gunfire that the zombies hadn’t breached the wall, it was impenetrable. Victor’s force there was just for show, the men up there were firing slowly, and all had small caliber rifles. Most of the defensive force was around the main house. Sharon knew Victor’s wall would hold the ocean at bay, but a super could bring a force of twenty five or fifty zombies right up to the house, and she knew that was what they were doing now.
The men on the roof fired bursts down into the crowd of zombies arriving on the lawn with military precision. As soon as the super appeared with a load of zombies, the squads would mow them down. The squad leaders were trained not to fire at the zombies, but instead to watch for the super. On the second trip, all four squad leaders found and opened fire on the super.
All the men’s radios were silent, there wasn’t a need for communication. Every single person knew their job. Victor’s home defense drills had made all of this second nature, even though it hadn’t ever happened before. There hadn’t been a zombie inside the walls since they were completed, but everyone in town knew it was only a matter of time. Victor knew that two hundred people couldn’t protect everything, so he’d designed his plans around protecting the most obvious targets, the manor house and the barn. Everything else could be rebuilt.
Upstairs in the house, six men took positions. The original antique windows of the house were stored safely in the attic, replaced two years ago by bullet proof glass in custom welded frames. Each window opened and closed like a normal window, but the center pane also opened to provide a small hole to shoot through. One man at each window and a sixth, Gerald Moore, standing back watching the room. His job was to watch the backs of the men shooting out the window.
Gerald never had a chance. Charlie Bookbinder appeared behind him and immediately put his hand on Gerald’s shoulder. Thousands of E’Clei poured out of Charlie’s thumb directly into the brain stem. He was paralyzed before he could even take a breath, and turned in less than a second.
“Where are Victor and Max.”
“We do not know. This one says they were not here.”
“Not here? Not fucking here! Twelve god damned years I planned this and they’re not fucking here?” Charlie yelled.
The five men at the windows turned and opened fire at the sound, but the bullets bounced off, completely ineffective. Charlie waved his hand at the men. Each slumped to the ground, blood running from his temples.
Charlie nearly screamed an order to his councilmen. “Find out where Victor and Max Tookes are. Now!”
Several seconds later one of the councilmen replied, “Lieutenants at the Georgia offensive report that they are there. And that that offensive has failed.” There was almost a smirk in the thought. “But that’s not possible,” Charlie thought to himself. “That’s a human trait.”
“Continue the Virginia assault. Burn the place down. I’m going to reinforce Georgia,” Charlie ordered, just before disappearing. Gerald Moore stood perfectly still, waiting for the right time.
Sharon read on. She recognized Charlie’s voice, but couldn’t place it. As she read about Milo and the literal Watch Dog, she wished Victor and Max were here. Her son inspired these people. Even if things got bad, they knew he would never stop fighting for them.
Her little Victor, that cute little boy had grown up to be the finest man she could have ever hoped for, although she was sorry for the circumstances, she delighted in watching him with the people of the town. He was their leader. Fair, clever, and unwavering he led the people of this town without even knowing he was doing it. “I love you, Victor. I hope you and Max are safe, wherever you are,” she thought, hoping it would reach him, and still she read on.
The battle raged on outside for over an hour before Max was in her mind. “Gramma, I’m home. Dad went to get Kris and John, they’re under attack too. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine darling boy, please come in here and be safe,” she thought.
“I can’t. There are too many out here, they need me.”
And then he was gone from her mind. Sharon read on as Max strode down the front walkway of the house. He called softly to a man in a solid black uniform, “Mister Gibson, Dad’s delayed. Where do we stand?”
“We’re holding. They sent a ton at the wall. We blew the gate charges; it took out almost one whole group. After that they didn’t really bother with the frontal assault. They knew they weren’t getting through the wall, Max.”
“Why would they waste that many soldiers?” asked Max. Gibson mused at how much the young boy was like his father. Always looking past what was in front of you, looking for the hidden agenda. In times like these, it was an important trait to possess.
“I don’t know. Seems like it was a distraction, but your father trained us to trust the walls,” said Gibson, shaking his head. “Surely they knew zombies wouldn’t be able to breach them, and surely they knew we knew that. It makes my head spin.”
Max looked thoughtful for a moment. “How did the attack happen?”
“It was just like your dad said. When they come, they’re going to throw everything they have at the walls, and then send ‘porters in with small groups to get us from behind while we focused on the hordes outside.”
“And we were able to handle the incursions?”
“No problems, Max. They landed in all the places we thought. We had guys waiting. Really, it started off like a well-planned attack and then the whole thing just kind of fell apart.”
“Thank you for keeping my grandmother safe, and for defending our home, Mister Gibson.”
“It’s what we all do, Max. Glad you’re safe, glad our families are safe,” replied Gibson just as Max disappeared.
The view from the top of the north wall was incredible. Thousands and thousands of zombies neatly lined up in rows standing perpendicular to the wall, arm’s length from each other. They weren’t pushing, snarling, grabbing hungry zombies like a normal horde. They just stood there. Just over the rise, Max could make out the auras of hundreds of people, running towards the zombies. Seconds later, like something out of a medieval war movie, a standard bearer cleared the hill carrying a long pole and the flag of the Maxists. He was followed by rows of people wearing white robes with a giant gold “M” on the chest.
He stepped up onto the gravel filled trough to get a better view of the field below him. The cultists were about to crash into a full sized horde of undead, in an attempt to save him. But he didn’t need saving.
“None of this makes any sense. Those people are going to be destroyed because they believe I’m some kind of savior,” Max said to himself. “I can’t let that happen.”
He raised his hands up even with his shoulders, palms outward. As he did, a burst of psychic energy, a rolling blue wave formed at the base of the wall, spreading outward in an ever expanding semicircle. Nearly a thousand zombies turned to dust as the wave crested over them. The Maxists charging the horde came to a stunned stop, their battle cries silenced, as the zombies in front of them disintegrated before their eyes. Looking up at Max on the wall with his arms outstretched, several of them fell to their knees, prostrating themselves in front of the child they worshiped.
“You must be Max. We’ve been waiting for you,” said two men in unison directly behind Max.
Max realized this was Bookbinder’s plan all along. He was willing to sacrifice ten thousand of his soldiers just to draw Max out.
With all the confidence of a sixteen year old boy with super powers and a legion of worshipers could possibly have, Max kicked up a bunch of gravel as he lept off the trough. The rocks were already spinning around his head when he landed.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. Clearly you’re anxious to die,” he said, crooking his finger at the two zombies who’d spoken in unison. “Come on.”
Chapter 3 Max’s Run
The three figures stood in a triangle on the high stone wall, staring each other down. The zombies were strong. Max could sense an overwhelming number of E’Clei in each of them as they stood eyeing each other up. The two zombies stood upright, hands straight down. Their faces were expressionless as they studied their prey.
Steve spoke to Max, as he’d been doing for the last twelve years. “They’re primes, Max. Councilmen, most likely. They’re the queen’s top advisers, and among the most powerful on the planet.”
“How do I beat them, Steve?”
“We cannot. Not two of them at once. And now that they’ve seen you, the others will be here in seconds. You must run. They will follow but your family will be safe here.”
“How can you know that for sure? This is my home, Steve. This is where we make the last stand,” replied Max.
“The last stand isn’t today, Max. Wait for your father. Wait for Marshall and Renee and Kris and John. They’ll be here soon. Now, run, and don’t stop.”
His father had taught him how to track teleporters; the two of them had spent years perfecting the techniques to track others and to avoid being followed. The tracker had to stand in the exact spot where the prey disappeared, and empty their mind. An image would form; a residual of the previous jump. The hunter then fixed that image in his own mind, and then appeared right behind the prey. Max knew these two would be able to follow him.
The clever boy picked a destination, a place he and his father had spent several days with heavy equipment the summer before. “Hey, you fuckers wanna dance? Let’s go somewhere more private. Follow me, if you can,” said Max as he disappeared.
He reappeared in the woods high up in the mountains in North Carolina, and drew his father’s old, worn hatchet as he backed up three steps. Hanging suspended from three trees above the circle where he appeared was an old school bus. Sharpened angle iron was welded the length of the bottom of the bus. A single line ran down the tree trunk and was tied off low to the ground.
“Three, two, one,” said Max, cutting the rope with his hatchet. Branches snapped. The rope zinged as it ripped through dozens of steel pulleys. To his left, a huge pile of logs that had been the counterweight to the bus hit the ground with a thunderous crash. Limbs snapped and wood creaked as massive trees straightened after months of being under load. Less than a second later, the two supers appeared just as the bright yellow school bus crashed down on them, followed by a sprinkling of green leaves ripped from the limbs high above. The weight of the bus broke the lumber the two zombies were standing on, carefully placed there by Victor and Max to conceal a large pit underneath. The two councilmen were pushed downward into a cavernous hole filled with sharpened wood and metal stakes.
‘Yeah!” yelled Max as he jumped in the air and fist pumped. “Take that, bitches!”
“Take what, Max?” The two intoned from directly behind him. One of the two councilmen lunged for him. Stunned Max barely had time to react, bringing the hatchet up to block the attack. The zombie grabbed his hand and twisted viciously. Max kicked the creature in the knee, but it felt like his foot hit a brick wall.
“Run, Max. Keep running.”
“I can’t run if they’re holding on to me, Steve. I’m open to constructive ideas. And don’t tell me how much my dad is going to yell at me for blowing the bus trap. It should have worked.”
“We need to lose them. You can’t go farther than them, but you are faster. Every time you stop, they have to take a second to see where you went. I would suggest hiding your trail of jumps.”
Max solidified his aura in a spot to the left of his face, allowing it to absorb a left hook from the zombie in front. Even shielded, the blow knocked Max back to the ground and jarred his neck. The boy disappeared before his pursuers had a chance to follow up.
His first stop was a mile up in the air, directly above the bus trap. He let himself fall for almost half a minute before he teleported again, to the ocean off the North Carolina coast. The water was frigid, but Max swam down as hard as he could. Max thought quickly about his next destination, and remembered he and his father taking a trip to Chile a few years ago when his class was discussing volcanoes. He was nearly forty feet down when he teleported again. He saw the first councilman splash into the ocean above him just before he disappeared.
Smoke and ash surrounded Max as he fell, choking him and making it hard to judge distance. He hardened his aura and fell as long as he could stand the heat. The soles of his shoes started to melt as he rocketed downward into the crater of an active volcano. Glowing orange liquid magma bubbled and sputtered at the bottom. Max disappeared just inches away from the bubbling surface.
Pleased with himself, Max bounced around several more places from pictures he’d seen in books. After dozens of stops, he paused in the woods long enough to try and contact his father. “Dad, where are you? I’m being chased by a couple of betas. I could use a hand.”
He took off at a dead run through the woods, running down the side of a mountain somewhere in Washington. They couldn’t still be following. Somewhere along the way they had to have slipped up. The tar pits, the alligators in the swamp, the volcano, the sharks off the coast of South Africa, something had to have gotten them.
“Uncle Marshall, where are you?” Max ran along a small game path somewhere high in the smokey mountains. The path opened out along a ridge, his footfalls sent stones skittering down the side of a near vertical cliff. He cartwheeled his arms to keep his balance, his feet criss-crossing on the narrow path.
“Renee and I are helping with the zombies at home. Where are you? We’ve been worried sick about you. Someone said they saw you fighting a couple of supers on the wall.” Marshall’s thoughts were slow, the mental equivalent of being out of breath.
“I’m running from them, but I’m not sure if I lost them. I can’t come home, in case they’re still following, but I can’t find Dad anywhere,” Max sent, starting a series of giant leaps down a steep rocky slope. With each step he sent tons of rock sliding down the mountain. “Stupid, Max. They’ll hear this from miles away,” he chided himself as he tried to stay ahead of the landslide.
“He’s out cold, Max. John says your dad has been running non-stop, and he needs to rest. Vic took a couple steps after he dropped John, his family, and Kris off at the barn and then passed out. He’s sleeping now.” As Marshall spoke, Max got flashes of the scene at the farm. Marshall was indeed tiring, if his thoughts were getting that disorganized. And if Marshall was tired, things were bad.
“I don’t know what to do, Uncle Marshall,” thought Max, taking one step up onto a fallen log, leaping high into the air. The boy grabbed a branch and propelled himself over a small stream, landing high up on the opposite bank without missing a stride.
“Middle of the west wall in two minutes, Max. Land on Leo’s star. We’ll be ready.”
Max ran on, trying to make as little noise as possible, listening behind him, but there were no sounds of pursuit. He covered another ten miles on foot, in the two minutes before heading back to the wall. Max was almost as fast as his father on foot, but he was tired, and fear was starting to creep in to his consciousness.
“Coming now. I don’t know if they’re behind me or not.”
Max appeared on the wall. During construction of the wall, Victor and Max had carved stars into the top of the wall for each of their friends who had died along the way. Victor called it the walk of fame.
Max stepped a foot to the left and drew his gun. He pointed it at nothing, holding it head high where the zombies would appear if they were still following him. Then he waited. From this height, the battlefield was a scene of complete carnage. Marshall’s arms were dripping blood, which pooled on the stones at his feet and streamed off towards the gutter system carved into the back side of the wall. This was exactly why water collected from the wall was used for irrigation, not drinking.
Seconds passed. A full minute, then two.
“Maybe you lost them,” said Renee, who was holding a long gore covered spear in the exact spot Max in which Max had appeared. If the zombies followed him, they would impale themselves on it.
“They are very powerful,” said Max, still breathing heavily. His wrist was on fire, he had a bruise on his cheek, and his feet were going to blister from the heat of the volcano and then all the running. Steve had been too busy shielding Max’s whereabouts and trying to throw off their attackers to heal him.
Max felt the pain in his wrist subside first. “Feet first, Steve, in case I have to run again,” thought Max.
“Wrist first, in case you have to fight,” replied Steve. “Then feet. The damage to your face is going to take a few minutes.”
Reggie peeked his head above the wall, then stepped up the last rung of the ladder and wiped his blood smeared palms on his handkerchief. “Master Tookes, I’m so glad you escaped your pursuers.” As he spoke, Reggie re-folded the bloody rag and stuffed it in his back pocket.
Marshall and Renee spun around to look at Reggie, then looked at each other and shrugged. Each was thinking the same thing; where does Reggie always come from?
“Hi Reggie. That’s still up for debate though.” Max’s eyes never moved from the spot. His gun was starting to waiver a bit as his arm tired.
Reggie thought for a moment as he tottered over to Max’s side. “My father always said the trouble with hunting the Bubal Hartebeest was not that they were faster than the Gahiji, but that they ran so far the Gahiji would collapse before they gave up.”
“What’s a Gahiji?” asked Max, watching the spot carefully.
“It means hunter in my father’s language,” said Reggie.
The four of them stood there for another five minutes, intently staring at an empty spot in space. It was becoming apparent that the two chasing Max weren’t going to follow him here.
Marshall spoke first, turning his back and walking towards the ladder. “Let’s get off this wall. If they show back up we’ll deal with them then. There is still a lot to do.”
Two thousand miles west in the penthouse suite on the top floor of the Bellagio Casino, Charlie was not happy. “What do you mean you lost him. He’s just a fucking boy. How could you lose him? There were eight of you!”
A man in a shredded suit stood in front of Charlie. He was missing an arm. A steady stream of blood ran out of his shoulder, dripping off a bit of flesh into a priceless oriental rug. “He teleported from the wall when he saw us. He had traps set, and he is crafty. The ones known as Roberts and Jamison were crushed by a bus and then impaled in a pit of spikes below. We joined in after the boy dropped three of us into a volcano. The child is completely fearless, he is beyond reckless. His trail ended just eight inches above the magma, There was no time to follow his vortex.” The councilman showed no emotion, but it was obvious that he was puzzled by this boy. “We were damaged on the next stop above a watery pit filled with beasts made entirely of teeth.” The councilman paused, accessing the memories of his host. “Alligators. One of the beasts removed my arm with one bite. The ones called Rohrer and McCaskil were ended by these alligators.”
Charlie flew into a rage, lashing out at the one armed councilman. He struck him in the forehead, knocking him prone, then knelt on his chest. “One boy,” said Charlie placing his thumb to the councilman’s temple. “One boy killed seven of you, who were stupid enough to chase him.” Charlie commanded all of the councilman’s E’Clei out of their host and into his own body. The former councilman’s head rolled to the side, dead again.
“Someone clean this fucking mess up,” Charlie commanded before he disappeared.
Bookbinder appeared in the same spot overlooking the farm he’d been several hours earlier. It was pitch black, low clouds hung over the farm. A few lights and a couple of fires made pinpricks of light around the settlement from this distance. The smell of wood smoke and burning flesh from one particularly large fire drifted to his nose. They were already cleaning up and burning the bodies of his wasted soldiers.
Had things gone so badly? It was true that his forces in Atlanta and Virginia were wiped out. The overseas offensives had gone well, and preliminary reports said John was dead out in the desert. The Gander Acres attack went perfectly, except somehow all of his soldiers were dead too. At least the last report he’d gotten was that Fuller had killed Kris and Alicia.
The day was a success, if not a complete one. Half of Tookes crew being dead would make him an emotional wreck. Victor never thought clearly when he was in that state, he would make mistakes now, and Charlie would be there to capitalize on them. He knew the boy was inside those walls. Charlie could feel him. Max was shrouding their property once again. Charlie knew the vague compulsion he felt to walk away was Max. In his soldiers, it was overwhelming. “What is it about that boy,” he said out loud.
* * * * *
The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie
AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily: