Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 1221. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“Aye aye sir.”
6 hours earlier:
Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 0621. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“She’s within visual range sir.”
“Bring us up and along side. Prepare to board.”
“Yes sir.” The crew of the Hammerhead Poseidon’s Trident work quickly and efficiently in the cramped confined space to make ready the team that will enter the large vessel above them.
Once the pride and joy of the Joe Naval Fleet the USS Flagg sits in the water little more then a floating refuge camp. Long ago the crew had distributed the last of the rations, immediately afterwards small scale rioting had erupted requiring the use of what little ammunition the dedicated men and women had left. Once depleted the crew found itself forced to improvise, making it near impossible to more difficult by the day to maintain any semblance of order. It wasn’t until Admiral Keel Haul ordered that those disturbing the peace be summarily disciplined that he regained control over his ship. A series of stocks were made out of the available materials on board and placed on the center of the deck, those who chose to break the rules were made examples of. The addition of the stockades made the ship feel more like a medieval castle then the flight deck of a multi-billion dollar naval vessel, yet they got the job done. Using a hastily made whip the Admiral would deliver punishment to any wrongdoers. With each lash a small piece of Keel Haul’s soul died. It only took two men being punished to reestablish relative peace onboard the ship.
It had been months since those days. While the violence had ceased the death and disease hadn’t. The bodies of civilians received a burial at sea, while the bodies of service men and women were held below deck until such time as they could receive proper burial befitting their service. Illness and starvation only added to the deplorable conditions. The decks that had once overflowed with makeshift tents humming with the sounds of survivors now held the silent faces of fewer then 100. Those that remained were little more then walking skeletons. If it wasn’t for their ability to speak one could almost mistake them for the undead.
“Sir the men are ready.”
“Breach the surface. Come around her starboard side. Paul. Cruze. You two stay here and keep the old girl running. I want eyes and ears on everything. While we’re up there if a whale shits below us I want to know.”
“Well Admiral you ready to take us aboard?”
“Yes.” Like so many survivors in this new world Admiral Keel Haul had resigned himself to fate. Gone was the loud commanding figure of a hardened Naval Veteran, that had died slowly piece by piece with each body sent to the bottom to join Davy Jones. All that remained was the hollow shell of a man trying desperately to survive. No not to survive, to not die. His small band had watched from the control room of his massive ship as the Hammerhead made landfall on the atoll. It was then that the idea he might be able to lead a small team to gather supplies was born. He hoped they could find just enough to perhaps prolong the lives and ease the suffering of a few people under his watch. He knew it was a long shot. He knew the vessel couldn’t hold enough supplies for all that looked to him. But it was something.
Since their capture the men and women of the Flagg had not been mistreated. They were given food, water, and were even allowed to clean up using the outdoor shower system that had been set up, the best part being the bar soap they were given. They had long ago run out of such a luxury. The Captain of the Hammerhead had offered nothing but respect to the Admiral and his team. For that Keel Haul was eternally grateful.
For a moment he thought perhaps things could turn around, that this mission had led them to their unlikely saviors.
The boarding of the Flagg was uneventful. The Hammerhead hadn’t tried to conceal their approach so as they entered the ships belly they were met by a handful of men and women, uniforms clinging to their emaciated frames. In their hands they held a menagerie of melee style weapons; hammers, pipes, wrenches, lengths of chain. Each wore a holstered pistol which Captain Wright knew to empty. Hanging from sagging chest rigs and belts were fixed blade knives. The site would have been amusing were it not so depressing. Admiral Keel Haul seeing his people so fragile and frail yet still attempting to be strong in the face of certain death felt the last of his heart break. “Stand down. These men are here at my request.” His voice dripped sadness.
“Sir they’re Cobra…”
“So was Munita. Those labels… They mean nothing now. These men are the first contact with the outside world we’ve had in months and may be all that stand between us and a watery grave.”
The frightened crew had neither the strength nor the will to argue. They simply sulked back towards the top deck without so much as a word.
It was no wonder that the people on board the Flagg had abandoned the lower decks, the heat and humidity were unbearable. “Captain if you’ll follow me topside.”
“She’s your boat Admiral, by all means.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “Lead the way.” As the Admiral stepped forward Captain Wright turned to his men, “Stay sharp.”
Much like the boarding process the trip topside was entirely uneventful. Once on deck the full scale of the tragedy that was the USS Flagg came into view. The survivors, if you could call what they were doing surviving, were living in abject squalor. Despite having thousands of square feet on the deck they were huddled in one section, the rest home to abandoned tents and other waste and detritus. The smell hit the men of the Hammerhead first, it was somehow worse then the stale stench below deck. Even in the open air the odor was horrendous, a vile mixture of shit and piss mixed with the unwashed body odor of the living. Captain Wright swallowed back a mouthful of bile fighting to escape his throat.
Areas of the once meticulously maintained flight deck were now slick with human excrement and urine. The stink of death clung to the men’s throat with each inhalation of breathe. Each man, woman, and child on deck looked like they were little more then a half step away from death’s door. “My god.” Was all the Captain could muster. Taking it all in he turned to his men, “Mack. O’Leary. Go gather any supplies we can spare; food, water, medicine. Get Paul to go cast some nets, let’s try and get some protein in these people.”
“Yes Sir.” Without another word Mack and O’Leary set out to complete the mission assigned to them, glad to no longer have to witness the suffering on deck.
“Admiral with your permission we will distribute what we can to those most in need.”
The Admiral’s response, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. We certainly do not have enough for everyone but we will do what we can.”
Minutes later the two EELs arrived back at Poseidon’s Trident. They related what they had seen on the ship to Sergeants Paul and Cruze. No one argued about how scare their supplies were, or even questioned how they would restock what they were giving up, hands just went to work collecting what they could. As soon as it was amassed the men rebounded the Flagg and headed straight for the deck, ignoring the creaking and banging of the large ships underbelly. What little they had filled two rucksacks and was distributed faster then it had taken them to load the packs. They went to the few children first, then the sickest adults. The recipients meek “Thanks” and tear wet eyes of the refugees made the men of Poseidon’s Trident see just how lucky they had been all this time. It took several hours but eventually Paul returned having been able to locate and net a school of small fish, no easy task from the one man submersible he had taken. Nevertheless there were enough of the little fish to put something warm in the bellies of each person on deck.
After doing all they could up top the men of Poseidon’s Trident accompanied Keel Haul below deck to check on the integrity of the large ship. “We’ve done all we could but honestly she’s seen better days. We ceased all non-essential operations, we have plenty of fuel to keep running what we’ve been using; desalinator, communications, basic engineering. We could probably get her fully operational we just don’t have the man power.” Looking at the men behind him the Admiral ends his conversation. They continue on in silence. Their footsteps echoing off the bulkheads of the narrow lower decks. As they pass a crossing hall a slight hum, vibration, and something else catches the Captain’s attention, “Wait.” Stopping abruptly his men instantly brought their weapons to the ready, aiming down empty corridors. “Did anyone else hear that?”
“Hear what sir?”
“I’m not sure Ganson. I thought I heard something.”
“I assure you Captain all you heard was the settling of this big lady. She makes quite a few…” His words are stopped by the loud banging coming from down the hall.
“Admiral, is there anything we should know?”
“No, I swear.”
BANG! The sounds of faint shuffling comes from down a dimly lit hall. “Captain. I’m hearing something.”
Turning on the Admiral, Captain Wright grabs the man by the collar of his shirt, through gritted teeth, “What is down that hall Admiral?”
“Just… Just the bodies.” Tears streaming from his fearful eyes.
“What bodies?” The question comes out as a controlled growl.
“My men. I couldn’t throw them overboard. They were dead I swear.”
“And you didn’t make sure they were down for good?”
“Sir!” Anxiety growing in Ganson’s voice at the sound is unmistakable moaning. Slowly the sound of scraping feet grows in volume. The men target their rifles on the empty space before them knowing what is coming.
“Whatever you do don’t fire.”
“If there’s one there are likely more. You fire and all your doing is signing our death warrant. Not to mention we’ll all go deaf.”
“Should we head topside?”
“Negative. We need to eliminate the threat.”
The seconds tick by. After what seems like hours the creature is visible in the weak light. “Good god it’s Travis. He was on duty in engineering.” Hearing the cracking voice of the Admiral the creature lets out a bellowing moan.
“Sir what should I do.”
“Stand down Ganson. I’ve got this.”
“Sir…?” Before the EEL can protest Wright pulls his knife, a blacked out Kabar BK2, walks the distance between his men and the approaching creature, and sinks the blade hilt deep into the temple of the beast. It falls to the ground with a wet thump yet the moaning persists. First one distinct groan then another, followed by more. Each passing moment the noise grows in strength and ferocity. “Men I think we need to take this topside.” The men do not hesitate. Weapons hot they make their way through the dank maze of passageways following the Captain’s lead. The whole time the Admiral’s eyes dart side to side terror plain on his face. “Men if you have your ear pro use it. If you see one of those things light it up.” One by one in perfect since each man takes his ear plugs out of the small container dangling from the collar of their shirts and places them in. “Admiral, you failed to mention you were storing the dead.” There was no response from the man, the look on his face was enough. “Move it EELs.” They moved faster as one, like a well oiled machine, each man maintaining his post and covering their assigned firing line.
Making their way through the corridors Keel Haul swallows back his fear, “Captain through that bulk head and up those steps 3 levels and we’re out.”
“You heard him, go.” Pointing in the direction the Captain stops to look behind. Coming around the corner a pair of outstretched graying hands leads the way for the snapping jaws behind. “Go. Go. Go.” They double time it out into the waiting sunlight. They move as one onto the flight deck, the sight of the armed men weapons up and pointing in the direction they just came from causes panic amongst the withering refugees. It doesn’t take long for the creatures to topple out of the doorway. Lead screams and the smell of cordite fills the air, as do the whimpering shrieks of the unarmed survivors. Men and women, Naval uniforms sagging on their rotting remains stream out arms outstretched seeking their next meals. “Hold them back!” The Captain barks the order as he changes the magazine in his sidearm. The shots are well timed and well placed, one after another the creatures meet true death, only to be replaced by more of the snarling horde. Captain __ grabs Keel Haul as he tries to back away, “Look at what you’ve done. You’ve brought this on yourself.” Between sobs the Admiral replies, “I swore an oath to protect those men and women.”
Shaking the blubbering man, “How many?” Keel Haul doesn’t answer.
“Magazine!” The shout of Mack is answered by O’Leary, “Last one.”
“Shit I’m out.” Ganson pulls his blade ready to meet the enemy hand to hand.
Looking at his men, the refugees, and the monsters flowing from below Wright barks out his order, “EELs! Abandon ship! NOW!” Knowing their escape route is blocked and not being familiar with the layout below deck the EELs take the most expeditious route off the Flagg. One by one the men run for the edge of the deck and take a flying leap into the cold water below.
Screams fill the air as the disheveled refugees fall prey to the ravenous zombies. Others fall from the deck into the briny depths pursued by the undead.
The men climb onto the Hammerhead and quickly get inside and seal the hatches. Immediately the crew get to work moving the vehicle away from the death trap before them. Looking out the small portholes the men watch as the ship falls into utter chaos.
“Captain what should we do?”
Knowing what that ship holds the Captain has no choice.
Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 1221. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“Aye aye sir.”
Without another word Sergeant Paul presses a button, the torpedoes speed away from the retreating Hammerhead. They run true to their target.
The sound reverberated and echoed down the nondescript main street. If any of THEM were unaware of his presence his bellowing scream certainly alerted them. THEY shambled out of every smashed doorway, tripping over splintered wood and twisted steel. THEY dragged themselves through each shattered window, the wicked shards of bloodstained glass doing little to slow THEIR advance.
His giant club, the steel studs sunk deep into the hard wood…
…That was another thing all together.
He swung it like a man possessed. Each swing crashed into the bodies and bones of the hungry undead shattering them like twigs. Heads exploded like rotted Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Again and again he swung. Back and forth. The taut muscles of his arms barely straining under their unrelenting use. His terrifying grunts and snarls melded with the cacophony of animalistic moans, groans, and snarls of the rotted undead masses.
The frightened women watched from the cramped interior of the wrecked car. They had found themselves walking down what they thought was an empty street just trying to survive one more day when it all went south. A misplaced step and the bottle skittered across the asphalt. It was only a few at first, which the women quickly dispatched with well worn blades. However, with each fallen foe three more took its place. They quickly found themselves outnumbered and surrounded. The trio used up what little ammunition they had but that did little more then announce dinner was served. Thinking quickly they fought their way to the car, hoping that it was unlocked. It was. They piled in locking the doors knowing full well how little protection the Honda Civic would provide. The young women were completely honest with themselves knowing that the car had become rusty blue steel coffin. With the horde growing ever larger they knew they stood no chance of survival. They didn’t scream, even the normally cowardly of the trio sat quietly tears drawing down her pale cheeks. They sat in the penetrating silence of those who know their time has come and they have accepted the inevitability.
That three college freshmen with no survival training or preparation had survived as long as they had was a triumph in itself. They always knew death could be around the next corner. It wasn’t that they were helpless, they all had skills which they brought to the table. The leader of the group was the daughter of a police officer who demanded that she learn how to fire a pistol which she excelled at. One was a calculating planner. The other a cautious voice of reason. All three were intelligent and always thinking outside the box to find nonconventional ways to solve problems.
Now they sat huddled in the late model Honda watching as a lone man smashed and destroyed the creatures left and right. Time and again they watched as skeletal hands wrapped their broken and blackened nails around the man’s leopard print cloak only to be tossed aside like so much garbage. With each swing of his giant cudgel more of the creatures found true death.
It felt like time was standing still but in only a matter of minutes the big man took out the last walking monstrosity. With a final swing he shouted, “CAPTAIN CAVEMAAAAAAAN!” with such wild ferocity that the women in the car shrank back in terror. The few undead whose heads had been spared the brunt of his club met death under the man’s imposing boot.
Blood splattered and gore covered he walked directly toward the car. The girls knew their time had come. There was nothing they could do against a thing that could wreak havoc against so many undead cannibals. It was only as he got closer that the women became truly scared.
He stopped a few feet away from the dusty abandoned vehicle. He could smell their fear it pained him. He did not like it when the innocent feared him. Looking into the eyes of the terrified women twisted his stomach and made him forlorn. He gripped his club in his right hand letting it hang by his side. He looked into the car, placed his left hand over his chest, and plaintively spoke, “Me Captain Caveman.” His meek voice did not match with the brutal sounds which they had just heard emanate from the hulking brute standing outside looking in at them with sadness in his eyes.
Minutes passed and no one dared move. The women out of fear of the carnage covered man before them. The man out of fear of once again scaring the innocent away. He could still smell their fear. He gently repeated himself, “Me Captain Caveman.” He waited. He realized that the women were far too terror-stricken to respond. Dejected, his head hung low, his shoulders slumped he turned and began to slowly walk away, dragging his heavy club across the gore covered asphalt.
He had gone less then a block from the car when he heard her, “Wait.” Her voice still held a hint of fear. He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face the shaky voice. Down the road staring at him a mixture of fear and defiance on her face, stood a tall lean woman her dark skin standing in contrast to the two paler women cowering behind her. He stood motionless worried that he might make them run away, like the rabbits did when he tried to pet them.
From behind the tall woman her brunette companion meekly whispered, “Wh-wha-what do we do now?”
Standing firm keeping her eyes on the imposing man in front of her, finger on the trigger of her empty sidearm, her voice low, “I’m not really sure. I didn’t think that far ahead. Any ideas?”
“I say we try to get away, move slowly, try not to startle him.” These words of wisdom from the blonde behind her.
“I don’t think he wants to hurt us.”
“Well he didn’t. He could have. But he didn’t.”
“Maybe he just wanted us to get out of the car.”
“You really think that piece of crap is what stopped him? You saw what he did to those things.”
Even whispered at 25 yards he could hear every hushed word, the wind carried them to his highly sensitive ears. Hoping to ease their apprehension he took a small step forward. “Stop right there!” Before his foot hit the ground the leader of the little group had reacted to his movement, centering her pistol on his large hairy chest. He could smell it was empty, the wind, being his friend, carried that to him as well. He also knew she was even more scared now. He placed his left hand in the air while he slowly put his big club on the ground beside him. He never took his gaze off of the woman in front of him. His innocent eyes pleading with her to be his friend. As he stood back up he placed his right hand on his chest, left hand still in the air plaintively, and in his quietest voice, “Me Captain Caveman.” He then slowly moved his right hand out in the direction of the young women, palm up, “You?”
“What’s he doing?”
“I think he wants to know our names.”
“D-d-don’t tell him.”
“Because… Look at him.” He was a terrifying sight indeed. Standing well over 6’ 6”, long dark hair and beard merging with his think chest hair, all of it matted and stained with the blood and brain matter of the undead. His leopard print cloak soiled with dirt and things more vile. Slowly he repeated himself, “Me Captain Caveman. You?”
The woman lowered her useless gun, “I’m Dee Dee.”
Through the mask of gore the man’s face lit up, “D D.” His smile showed perfect gleaming teeth. He cocked his head to the side, like a dog confused but he word’s of it’s human, “You D D. They?”
“Ladies introduce yourselves.”
“No buts. Just do it. He saved our lives we owe him that much.” The blonde came out from behind Dee Dee first, “I’m Taffy. Taffy Dare.” The brunette struggled to garner up the courage to stand tall, “My name is Brenda.”
His already big smile grew so large it nearly engulfed his face. “D D. Taffee. Brend-a. Me Captain Caveman. We be friends?”
"Oh look they're back."
"What do you mean they're back?"
"Well let's see the first time this happened was 1932. Then again in 1968, 1978, 1979, and 1985. There was that incident back in 1991, well, except that that turned out to be nothing more then someone colorfully retelling events from 1968. And now look, they're back."
"This has never happened before."
"Sure it has in 1932, 1968, 1978, 1979, and 1985.”
"If this has happened before why haven't we heard about it? Why wasn't it on the news?"
"Well, it was. A squabble here. A riot there."
That was less than 12 hours ago.
"Fixed point in time."
"You keep saying that."
"And it is exactly what I mean. What's happening now. It has to happen."
"Why why does this..." I turn my arm sweeping the horizon glowing red from the uncontrolled fires. No fire service coming to douse the blazes. All around the gut wrenching screaming of the horrified masses mingles with the uncontrolled guttural moaning of the undead echoing into time and space, "...have to happen?"
"Because it just does."
"Explain it to me."
"There is no time for that..."
"You're a time traveler. Make time."
"I'm sorry but I can't. There are some things that even I can't change."
"Can't or won't?"
The pained expression on his face says it all. A mixture of sadness, anger, frustration, and defeat washes over his timeless countenance leaving him looking somehow older.
He places his hand on my shoulder, when he speaks the words are barely above a whisper. His usual boisterous energy completely missing, "Come with me. We can go see the Christmas planet Ember or the Face of Boe. We can come back when this ends."
"And when will that be huh? When will this nightmare end?"
"I don't know."
"How? How can you not know. You've seen our future you've shown me. We survive. Earth survives..."
"Humans. I never said anything about Earth."
"What? But New Earth..." My words stop me in my tracks. "That's it isn't it? That's why it's new earth. Because this one dies."
He refuses to look at me. His head hung low, "Again I'm sorry." Then he raises his eyes towards the sky. Staring at something only he can see, "If there was something I could do I would." The sound of consolation in his voice drips sadness. "Come with me."
"No." I stare him down defiantly holding my head high. "No. I'll stay right here. If this is a fixed point in time and has to happen I'll be here to watch it all."
In less than 12 hours my whole life has been turned upside down. It isn't the first time of course. The first time was when I met him. The Doctor. I'm not even sure how long ago that was, with all the time hoping and space travel.
What I do know is this time everything is different. This time the man I came to know as the protector of Earth. Of mankind. A savior to untold millions. Has decided now isn't the time.
He stepped into his blue box without looking back. Without so much as a snide quip or witty retort. He just stepped in, closed the door, and disappeared.
Now I find myself back against the wall. Quite literally. The small bathroom of the smaller flat is just wide enough for me to put my back against the wall and plant my feet on the door. Anything to slow their relentless pursuit. Their scratching and moaning never ceases. In fact it gets louder every second. More find their way to the open flat door. Stumbling over one another in hopes of crashing through the door and peeling back my flesh. Rory is next to me adding his weight to our attempted blockade. I reach out and take his hand. Tears filling my eyes. We say nothing. This is it. Our time together is finally ending. The door begins to crack. A hand thrusts through grabbing Rory's ankle. He doesn't scream. He doesn't pull away. Doing so would only weaken our hold on the door. He not in any real danger until there are teeth.
The snap catches me by surprise. Rory's scream even more so. Blood pouring from his shattered ankle. Yet he keeps holding his position. He let's out an agonizing shriek. My voice joins his. Another section of the door cracks. It's only seconds now...
Date: July 4, 2015. Time: 1436. Location: Aguilar, CO.
"Wh-wh-what do you mean you're pregnant?"
That was seven months ago.
Shaggy remembers the conversation as if it were yesterday. He had known Velma since high school, she had never had interest in boys.
He thought about the conversation in the coffee shop. The Mystery Incorporated Gang had decided to go to college together but when that didn't work out they chose the next best thing, the Western Massachusetts Five College System. They each attended different schools but were always within a short bus ride of each other. In fact they were all able to take classes together, usually on the paranormal. Fred went to Amherst College, Daphne to Mount Holyoke, Shaggy to Hampshire, and Velma to Smith. Shaggy even found the pup he named Scooby Doo at a UMass Amherst frat party. When not studying they met up in downtown North Hampton at Woodstar Cafe, a quaint local coffee house specializing in fair trade coffee and fresh baked goodies. They had been sitting around talking about their next adventure, a trip to the Northampton State Hospital, a long abandoned insane asylum with decades of reported ghostly activity.
Velma, who was normally very chatty, had been acting distant all night, "Hey guys… I have something I need to tell you…" She took her glasses off rubbing her temples before replacing them on her thin nose, "I don't know how else to say it other than to just say it, I'm a lesbian." She wasn't sure what to expect.
"We all know. C'mon V we know you better than anyone." Daphne said while putting her arm around her best friend.
"Yeah, like we always knew." Shaggy said tucking the bill into his wallet.
“What's with the money?" Velma asked confused.
"Oh. That. Well Shaggy and I had a bet as to when you'd come out. I said after Graduation…"
"And I said before." Shaggy interrupted with a smile.
"Look Velma you're our friend…" Fred started.
"My best friend." Daphne said with a smile.
"You can't do it alone Shaggy."
He squirms under her intense stare. "I won't really be alone, right Scooby." The big dog's usual huff came in response. “And besides like, I don't see another choice. You can barely walk. You'd be more of a hinderance then helpful."
Velma scrunches her brow, hand on her stomach. She knows that it's coming soon. "Okay." Her voice defeated eye intense, "You take Scooby. I'll stay here and wait for you. If you need to get out quick I'll drive up and we'll scram."
The place had been packed. When it all went down people had flocked to hospitals, clinics, police stations, and places of worship, anywhere they thought they could find help or be protected. Shaggy, Scooby, and Velma had spent the last several years avoiding them. Now Shaggy finds himself walking up to the doors. He gave the handles a quick jiggle, "Locked Scooby." He knelt down and got to work. One of the many skills he had excelled at over was lock picking. In under a minute he had the cylinder turned and the door unlocked. "Okay Scoob. This is probably gonna be bad. You ready?" The Great Dane lowered his nose to the bottom of the door and let out a low whimper. "I know. I feel the same way. But… It's for Velma." He raised to his full height, cracked his back, and stretched. First putting in the big dog's ear protection, then his own he shouldered his rifle and reached for the knob, "Here we go." Before he could fully open the door the weight of one of THEM slams into it. Jaws snap at the open space between the door and its frame. Shaggy, caught off guard, stumbles back the door flying open. The thing locks its dead grey eyes on Shaggy. With its jaw dropped open it stretches blackened and broken hands as viscous ooze stains the finger tips where nails once grew. It would have been the last of Shaggy if not for the bravery of his loyal companion throwing his himself against the creature's legs knocking it back. He wasted no time in regaining his composure and putting a 5.56 between its eyes.
And it was on.
The dinner bell had been rung.
All the starving abominations fought to sink their teeth into Shaggy and his four legged pal moving towards the duo en masse, "Scoob this is bad. It's too open." To his right he saw a short hallway, "This way." He backtracks his way into the hallway. Doors stand shut on either side, he glanced at them, "No time to check 'em." The narrow hall acts as a choke point allowing THEM to come at him in near single file. Scooby stood defiantly in front of Shaggy his deep barking mingling with the echoing rifle fire. One by one they went down, though not all were truly dead when they fell.
Movies and TV shows pre-TEOTWAWKI* had people believing that anyone could make a headshot every time. That just wasn't reality. In reality the swarm in front of him, had once been the sick, ill, and injured, now they stumbled and shambled some dragging IV stands and other medical equipment in tow. This meant their heads bobbed this way and that. Add to the situation the varying sizes of the people some tall and some short and Shaggy found himself constantly readjusting his aim. Most shots rang true, others didn't.
Bullet casing littered the floor, he found himself reloading more then expected. As the bodies piled up those not truly dead continued scratching and clawing their way towards the two survivors. On his last magazine he began picking off heads as they came over the wall of dead. Choking smoke and the acrid smell of gunpowder mixed with the putrid odor of the fetid undead. Carefully placing each shot Shaggy fought off the urge to vomit. Behind him the doors had started to buckle. He had noticed them moving as soon as he stepped in the hall. Always aware to keep them in his peripheral he knew it wouldn't be long before what was behind them got out. The way in front of him was completely choked by bodies, stopping his fire to check his magazine, "Well Scoob, looks like we've got about 5 rounds. We're gonna have to go into one of these rooms and hope that we don't miss and we have more bullets then they do brains." Scooby cocks his head to the side in response. Shaggy had noticed that none of the windows had bars over them, being a small town it made sense. Now he was glad. He turned to the door through which the room on the other side would bring him closer to the Mystery Machine and more ammo. The door shook, "Okay one more time." Rather than turn the knob he kicked in the door, his foot nearly going through the cheap hollow veneer. The thing on the other side was knocked off its feet. Shaggy went in rifle ready saw the downed thing and ended it. A quick scan showed him it was the only one in the room. He slung his rifle, "Looks like that's it. Now I wish I hadn't kicked in the door. Closing it behind him he pushed a large metal exam table in front of it. He knew the things wouldn't get through the pile of dead but, "It's better to be safe then sorry eh Scoob." The dog seemed to nod in agreement.
Shaggy went to the window and saw the Mystery Machine two buildings down. Velma was still safe inside. From his vantage point he could see a few walkers roaming the street, "Okay Scooby Doo we gotta get outta here, back to the van, grab ammo, and finish clearing this place out. All without getting bit. Think we can do it." The big dog wagged its tail. Reaching down Shaggy scratched behind the dog's ears.
They've spent the last month holed up in the abandoned clinic.
"They're getting closer Shaggy." The man says without looking up.
"Okay Velma, you're gonna have to push." the now familiar voice says, tone even. Looking down at the man and woman helping his long time friend Shaggy is terrified something might go wrong. He had met them while scavenging for supplies in the small burg of Aguilar, Colorado. They had nearly shot each other. Now the newcomers were delivering a baby that shouldn't be, that couldn't be, but was. Velma had never been with a man. The closest she had ever come had been back in Maybury when she was tied on top of Shaggy.
She had tried to figure out how it was possible. How she had become pregnant. Velma wouldn't tell Shaggy her worst fears. They had both seen the truth of the church of Crystal Ball, a.k.a. ‘Father Flagg’, the ritualistic orgy. She was worried that they had participated the day prior. The thought terrified her.
Another contraction, "Push!"
Velma does as Brian asks, she pushes with all her might. All dignity having left her. She knew that childbirth wasn't the beautiful natural thing that movies and television tried to sell it as. She knew she was going to defecate, bleed, sweat, scream, and cry. She was okay with all of that. What she had a hard time accepting was not knowing who the father was. Flagg had said Shaggy would be the seed, she the vessel, did that mean it was Shaggy's? She cries out.
"It's crowning. Keep going." Brian stays cool and level headed. As does Emily his wife acting as nurse. For years he had travelled the globe under the guise of being a Medic for Hire. Working for companies that supplied personnel to regions in need. The reality being that he was a Cobra Medi-Viper attached to Cobra Special Operation Forces. He travelled the globe treating wounded Range Vipers, Swamp Rats, Snow Serpents, and their ilk. Since the SHTF he and Emily had stayed in the Rockies trying to stay one step ahead of THEM. He was hoping to meet up with a Cobra Unit and get Emily to safety but instead found himself in this run down medical clinic. He was surprised to see how well stocked it was. Yeah it was trashed by the things that had been trapped inside but it had never been the victim of looters. He was putting all his training and the gathered supplies to good use now. "Just a few more and it's out." There's a moment when Brian, Hawkeye to his comrades in Cobra, almost lost his composure, "Emily hon' get me a blanket. One more push Velma. C'mon you're almost there." Her scream reverberates throughout the room as the child clears her birth canal. Quickly Brian wraps it up. A regular doctor would have had the child removed from the room, perhaps he would have suggested early termination, but Hawkeye had trained under Dr. Mindbender. He had been involved in numerous grotesque experiments and abominations to the world. This barely phased him.
"Is everything okay doc?" Shaggy says worry plain in his voice.
"Shaggy come here please." Hawkeye rubs the newborn's chest unsure of what to do.
"What's wrong with my baby?! Give me my baby!" Velma tries to sit up only to be met by the caring hands of Emily.
"Please you've been through a lot. Your baby will be…" Just then the small creature cries. A sound heard in every nursery the world over.
Without a word Hawkeye hands the bundle to Shaggy, "Let's see…" His voice trails off. The thing in his hands is no human baby. He has no words to describe it.
"Shaggy give me my baby." The pleading tone in Velma's voice turns him towards her. He hesitates, the bundle in his hand squirming. Slowly he hands the small thing to Velma. With open arms and fear on her face she takes the child quickly pulling it to her breast before looking. "He's mine."
"V-v-velma look at it."
Slowly she begins to look down. The bundle still held close. She let's down the blanket. Her eyes light up, “Isn’t he beautiful?” She looks up beaming, “He has your eyes Shag.”
* TEOTWAWKI - The End Of The World As We Know It
Date: March 2014. Time: 0900. Location: Pennsylvania.
"Looking back on it it sounds like the plot to a bad 90s action movie but it’s the way things were." The man I'm interviewing, Firefighter Kenna, stares off into the distance as he recalls the beginning of his ordeal.
“Let me see if I understand this correctly, Kenna. You want us to gear up in Turnouts. Grab hooks, halligans, and axes. Make our way cross town, which is infested with those things, to a National Guard armory that’s more then likely already emptied either by the military or looters in hopes of finding some supplies?” The look on his face said it all there was no way he was going to agree to this crazy scheme. It was insane. It was suicide. It was all we had.
“Yes.” I tried to act strong but the defeat in my voice held my enthusiasm at bay. I was able to convince myself to keep and maintain eye contact with him.
The silence was deafening. I was just about to go on about how we could locate survivors and help them. I was ready to counter with arguments about public service. Honoring the memories of our fallen. Taking care of our families.
“Well damn it. What are we waiting for?” And just like that the argument was over. “We’ve got nothing better to do. Might as well have an adventure before we end up as dinner right.” The smile on his face tried to hide his concern.
It’s amazing how all of us made it to the station. All 23 of us. Some arrived with their families; wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, kids. Being single I had no where else to go, but the family guys, I would've thought they’d take off, try to find an evacuation station, get to the mountains, anything. But no, we all took an oath and each of us showed up. We brought what we had; canned goods, bottles of water, a couple shot guns, some pistols, other various supplies. We secured the doors, packed into the upper levels of the station house then destroyed the stairs. We’re a Hook and Ladder group, we specialize in entering burning buildings and ventilating structures, we tear shit up. So taking out the stairs and replacing it with a chain fire ladder was no issue. We were lucky for while. But supplies began running low. First we just hit the near by businesses. Then we spread out.
We had all heard the saying, “It ain’t stealing if you leave a note.” So we left notes. We had exhausted the local sources and had lost too many good men, and women. The first guy got bit as we tried to commandeer some supplies from a pharmacy. Got tagged by a quiet one that was standing behind a door. We took him back to the station. We’d all seen the TV reports and listened to the radio but no one wanted to believe it. If you got bit you became one of THEM. A Zombie. Took us two more guys, after Bobby, turning in the Station House and tearing apart their families before we came to the consensus, anyone bit was put down with extreme prejudice. Still we had already lost too much.
It had been decided that we would stay put and wait for rescue, which we all just knew was coming cause there was a SOP (standard operating procedure) for disasters. We’d spent the last several weeks holed up, waiting for... The National Guard? FEMA? Anyone from the Government? Someone to find us. We now found ourselves out of food. Running low on water, an irony to be sure. And desperate.
Down to seven men. Trying to support 11 other survivors. Madness.
The big man had settled it. He had been silent as we went over the pluses and minuses of the plan. As we tried to figure out how to break the plan to the terrified huddled families.
It had started the night before as we were rationing out the last of our supplies. When I suggested the plan, “You’re fuckin’ crazy man.”
“You know how many of those things there are out there?”
“They fuckin’ tore apart my son!”
They laid into me. But I didn’t give up. We argued. All day yesterday and into today. Once Walker agreed…He was a career firefighter, old school. Graying at the temples and widening at the midsection. And he could still whip the ass of any Rookie and most of us regulars in PT. Built like a brick shit house is how my father would have described him.
I was hoping they could talk me out of it. Not that I’d talk them into it.
THESE EVENTS TAKE PLACE PRIOR TO THE EVENTS IN CHAPTER 55
Date: Unknown. Time: Unknown. Location: USA.
Prior to the shit hitting the fan the town had a small population, the one thing that worked against them was Route 87. Scared, confused, and armed thousands had taken to the road trying to escape surrounding areas, no one knowing where it was safe. Reports changed hour to hour where the evac areas, FEMA camps, and safe zones were. It seemed like they were falling to the creatures faster then they could be set up. The resulting traffic jams were like buffets for the spread of the disease. From car to car the walkers went attacking anyone they could grab. Men, women, children, no one was spared. Had the road not been built the town may have survived relatively unscathed but the greased palms of the mayor and the town board overruled the numerous objections of the residents.
He remembered the day he responded to the call for help from the town. The had taken a group of Guardsmen in a small convoy; 2 deuce and a half and 2 Humvee. They were stopped at the edge of town by the traffic. Cars blocked the way, people busy fighting with each other fell prey to the undead. He didn't know what to do. The radio was squawking with the desperation of the town leaders, holed up in the municipal building. He ordered the large trucks to lead the way pushing the cars out of their path. He told his men to pick off the infected from the Humvees. Easier said then done. The Weekend Warriors wasted hundreds of rounds trying to hit the growing, yet still manageable, number of undead. They hit just as many uninfected as they did the contaminated. His order was one of the many poorly executed plans that led to the rumors of soldiers firing upon citizens. It was also the turning point in his life and idea of survival. The Guard Unit had been getting smaller as every morning they awoke to find another of their ranks having disappeared in the middle of the night. The failure of the mission was the last straw for the Guardsmen they all left. Choosing to try and save their own families and themselves over trying to maintain order.
They never did make it to the mayor. The traffic was too thick. Watching the van racing through the streets that had stopped him in his tracks reminded him just how much the fire had changed. The van slammed into gutted and burned out cars and swerved around the larger trucks and SUVs. They had nearly made it out of the town proper and onto the relatively more open road when it happened.
It wasn't the largest horde, he had whittled down its numbers, but, like many things over the years he just stopped. He had stopped keeping track of the horde, consoling himself with the notion that should it come back he would let them take him. He didn't go out of his way to avoid them but neither did he seek them out. He knew they were down in the valley which was one of the reasons he had stopped scavenging through the rubble. Now the mass of undead flesh had gathered.
His attention having been fixed by the van's movements he didn't see where the gang had come from only that the van collided head on with it. He could tell the driver had thought he could plow his way through it. He would have too if it weren't for the several bodies that had been wedged into the wheel wells. It came to a screeching stop and was immediately surrounded. He couldn't hear anything but he could see it all. He had no intention of going down there. He had given up on helping people after the debacle trying to reach the trapped politicians. So he watched. The creatures scrambled over one another trying to claw and bite their way into the van. Hands smeared blood and ash on the sides as the mass pounded on them. Still he watched. He saw the driver's side window go part way down, a gun barrel poking through the grate. The rapport of the shotgun echoing through the valley, he knew it would draw even more of THEM to the scene. Still he watched. He heard the gunshots again and again, first from the driver's side then the passengers. Two distinct sounds meaning at least two firearms and probably two survivors. He could see the smoke rising from the tires as the driver tried in vain to dislodge the corpses. The van rocked back and forth. He knew that inevitably the horde would flip the van and get the trapped terrified people inside.
The monocular was tossed into his bag.
With a renewed sense of purpose he ran into the cabin grabbing his favorite firearm, the M60. He grabbed one of the bags full of ammunition belts and ran out sure to secure the door behind him. He took to the trail dodging branches and roots making it to the Deuce and a Half. The old workhorse started with a shudder. He threw it into gear and headed towards the town. He knew it was only a matter of time. The cloud of dust rose as he tore down the mountain dirt road. The truck jumped as it hit the pavement. He knew that once he cleared the curve in the road he'd be near the van. He hoped the occupants were still safe the near continuous gunshots slightly easing his worry. Rounding the bend he slammed on the breaks. Ahead of him less than 100 yards sat the van. It was still surrounded and rocking under the weight of the decayed dead. Once on the roof he loaded up his weapon and with a smile on his face unleashed lead hell. The rounds tore through the bodies of the dead smashing into the concrete sending bits of rock flying through the air. Those closest to him turned towards him, arms outstretched they walked directly into his line of fire. Nearly all fell under the heavy barrage only to drag themselves across the ground, others were sent to their true deaths by a round to the head. He stopped only to reload sending round upon round downrange.
Inside the van Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby Doo watched the "crazy bastard" mowing down the horde. In a matter of minutes the horde had been cut in half, many literally. Shaggy flashed the lights of the van to signal the heavily armed man. Without releasing the trigger he waved his left hand holding the giant weapon one handed like some and action movie star. Shaggy continued trying to dislodge the bodies stopping the Mystery Machine, first forward then back. From the passenger side Velma resumed firing at the horde. Unable to get the van to budge Shaggy turned it off and took to gunning down those who got close from his side. In the back Scooby lay on the floor his big paws over his ears. Shaggy and Velma had both taken to keeping ear plugs handy. The first time they fired one of their weapons from the van taught them that the reverberation could be just as dangerous as the bullet.
The slaughter continued for what felt like forever. Half way through the big man on the truck got off the roof and fired while walking towards the van. His shots became more controlled. Short bursts rather than long sweeping passes. His smile never changed.
"I g-g-guess so." They each take a moment to reload their weapons, Shaggy's a Mossberg Shotgun, Velma's a hunting rifle. They had other weapons but weren't familiar enough with their care never mind their operation to use. That all changed upon meeting the big Army Vet. Looking back at Scooby, "Scoob you stay here. V and I will be right back." The big dog whimpered in response the sounds of the weapons hurting his sensitive ears. Shaggy opened the doors, stepped out, and began picking off walkers.
"I say we meet our mysterious savior." With weapons at their sides they made their way over to the heavily armed man wearing the huge smile.
As they draw near he looks at them, "Well that was damn fun. Thanks."
"W-w-well like the pleasure was all ours." the tall lanky one with the shot gun responds.
"You really saved our asses there mister." The statement from the short nerdy looking girl in an oversized sweater, skirt, and combat boots.
Date: July 3, 2013 Time: 1200. Location: Central United States.
Deep in the heart of what was formerly the United States of America a long abandoned small town has been re-occupied; debris has been cleared, barricades erected, watch towers raised, homes transformed into barracks, the small town clinic reestablished, armories, dining facilities, and entertainment spaces opened. Life inside the walls passes each day as normally as possible. There is a buzz of activity in the air as men, women, and children go to and fro, outside the walls people tend various crops all under the watchful eyes of the guards standing ever vigilant, always on the lookout for walking corpses or marauders. What is it that makes all this possible?
Just outside the town, beyond the cultivated plots, on the forest's edge men and women take up arms. The training is brutal yet all those who are here are survivors. They have survived; the raising dead, the plagues of diseases thought long gone, looters, and the military in-fighting. They have come to this place seeking protection behind its walls and a warm meal. What they got was more.
They found the opportunity to fight back. To gain the skills necessary to no longer live in fear of the undead. They hope to no longer be survivors hiding from the undead but to become saviors to the living.
Over the course of 16 weeks they are drilled day in and day out in land navigation, threat assessment, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), and most importantly enemy eradication and disposal. They are taught how to fight the enemy in unarmed combat, with the use of blades and bludgeons, and while looking down the barrel of a sidearm or rifle. They work on minimal food and water with almost no rest. No one opts out of the course though most will never complete it falling victim to THEM. Their only saving grace being the promise that their families and loved ones, if any, will be cared for. There has been no shortage of volunteers. Men and woman from all walks of life sign up. There are no judgements based on a person's past, all who volunteer are given the same opportunity. Police train with men they arrested, former US Military personnel train with conscientious objectors. The man leading the training isn't preparing the new modern US Army. No, Lieutenant Colonel Bludd is preparing the next generation of Cobra Viper one specialized in urban pacification with an affinity for the exterminating the undead, their official designation; Cobra Reapers. A play on the character of the Grim Reaper as these men and women are to be the hand of true death for the shambling carcasses polluting the continent.
The final stage of training is called the Gauntlet. It is a two mile long quarter mile wide corridor made up of sections of neglected interstate, deserted homes, and forsaken forrest bound only by the occasional makeshift fence or wall. Haphazardly strewn about are the stalled, smashed, and burned out hulks of family sedans, pick ups, SUVs, delivery trucks, and an overturned semi. Walkers and draggers roam the grounds unhindered. A raised walk way allows Bludd to watch each trainee's progress.
Bludd watches from above as the man starts to make his way toward the growing pack of creatures. He is no stranger to combat. He has fought on six continents and been involved in every major battle of the last two decades. He found himself stateside when it all happened. For over a year he survived watching his beloved country become a desolate landscape of death and pestilence. He offered help in the form of training to those he came across, his motto being "Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he'll eat for life." In this new world that's what people needed, training and he had undergone the best.
"Get goin' you lazy louse!" Spittle flies through the air as Lieutenant Colonel Bludd screams at the staling trainee. His voice echos over the landscape attracting the attention of THEM. The closest ghoul turns in the direction of the noise, a gurgling moan escapes its black lips. The sound starts a chain reaction as each of THEM is drawn toward the location of their next feast. Many of the dilapidated vehicles start to rock and shake as those forever trapped by seat belts thrash and struggle. Skeletal hands shoot out of broken side windows. Others scrape against the tempered glass relentlessly. The tall grasses at the roads edge sway under the movement of bodies dragging themselves towards their next meal. The cracked and broken pavement does little to slow the progress of those still able to walk. Many of THEM are wearing the uniform of a trainee; black t-shirt, black cargo pants, black boots, heavy black gloves. The bite marks on their necks evidence that they were unable to complete this final stage of training. The recruit turns his eyes up to see the face of a man who just rang the dinner bell. The sneer on Bludd's face grows in twisted amusement as he looks down. The recruit doesn't know how many of the zombies are in the vicinity he just knows that in order to complete his training he must get out alive.
Over the last 16 weeks. He has been cold, wet, hungry, and tired. He has had his physical and mental ability pushed beyond anything he faced while serving in the Special Forces. The addition of THEM to the daily training made Ranger School look like pre-school. He surveys the scene before him trying to mark a course. The yelling from above doing little to help his predicament. He knows the Gauntlet has an 80% "wash out rate" and he will not be one of THEM. He can't help but question if he has made the right decision.
He couldn't believe the stories he heard of Soldiers slaughtering innocent civilians. He knew there had to be an explanation, perhaps they were "treating" infected, something, anything. Then he saw it. He had been shadowing a Marine Platoon as it made its way West. They had come upon a barricaded warehouse. Inside was a group of 21 survivors. He'll never forget them; nine men, two boys, seven women, and three girls. Seeing help had arrived they rushed out to welcome their saviors. They were met by the raised barrels of M16s. At first he thought they were going to check them for infection, which they did. What came next shocked him to the core. The men and boys were lined up, forced to kneel in the street, and shot execution style. The women and girls… Three fought bravely, one was even able to send two Marines to their graves as she successfully pulled one of their sidearms. The others… That evening is burned into his memory as the night he was forced to kill men in uniform.
After that night he was a man lost. He cared not whether he lived or died. He's not sure when they found him, or where. Last thing he remembered was curling up in the corner of an empty house. Next thing he knew he was being carried on a stretcher. He flashed in and out of consciousness. When he finally came to he was on a bed in an unfamiliar room. Sunlight was shining across the room as a gentle breeze came through the open window. His vision swam as he turned his head towards the bright light. He heard the door click open as a nurse entered. "I see you're awake. That's good." The tall lean man went to the end of the bed retrieving a clip board turning toward the machines he jotted some notes then returned it to its original location. "Can I get you anything?"
Eyes fixed on the nurse, "Wa…"
Seeing the words struggling to escape the nurse interrupted. "Water. Well I'm not sure you're ready for that but I'll see what I can do." He left the room leaving the door open behind him. He came back a friendly smile brightening his face, "Good news and bad. Bad first. I can't give you water. But the good news is I can give you ice chips." The nurse steps to his side and gently helps him sit up. "Here ya go. Don't go too fast now." He places the dixie cup of crushed ice to his lips and tips it just so. The ice feels good on his parched throat. He takes a few more pieces.
"Thank you." The words barely audible scrape out of his throat.
"No worries. My name is John and I'll be here for a few more hours. I you need anything just ring the bell. With a smile he turned and walked out again leaving the door open. For several days John arrived each morning to help him with breakfast and left each night to be replaced by Susan another nurse with impeccable bedside manor. On the fifth day John entered as usual, "Good morning sir, you're looking much better today. Let's take a look shall we." He picked up the clipboard, checked the various instruments and monitors, and looked up, "Great news. I think today is the day." It was the day that led to this new life. Nurse John removed the various sensors and instructed him to get dressed, "You'll find fresh clothing in the bathroom." Sure enough he did. All black. After putting on the clothes he was escorted to the office of the "Commanding Officer." The door was opened and he was bid entry. The office was a standard hospital office. Plaques and diplomas lined the walls. Photos of a family here and there. A small sofa sat near the back wall. A large oak desk, richly stained, took up the center of the room. A high backed brown leather chair was turned toward the large airy windows. He couldn't see who was in the chair but knew it was occupied. John walked him in and offered him a chair. He took it with a nod. Sitting he watched as John left in without a word. Silence filled the room. A clock on the far right wall ticked away the seconds. Finally the chair turned. He stared in shock at the man filling the seat. It was not the man from the pictures.
"G'day. I 'ope your stay has been sa'isfyin'." The man locked his good eye on him, his other covered under a black patch, a smile touching the corners of his mouth making his thick handle bar mustache twitch.
Six long months later and he finds himself about to become a member of a new SOF unit for an organization he spent his entire military career trying to topple. The moment he recognized Bludd he thought he'd be subject to beatings, tortured, even killed. But that never came to pass. He was given an offer. Join or leave. It really was that simple. He could become part of something new. Or he could take his chances in the wastes. He was given 48 hours to think about it and allowed full access to the compound with the understanding that he could leave at any time should that be his choice. What he saw as he walked around amazed him; children playing, families laughing. Sure there was the ever vigilant Cobra presence but they seemed to be solely focused on protecting those inside. He learned that the people were the families of the Troopers. That anyone who could make it to the entrance of the walled in city was given admittance so long as they were not infected or somehow otherwise posed a threat to the safety of the inhabitants. He had dinner in the clinic and heard tales of rescue from others. It didn't make sense. These were his Enemy. The "bad guys." Ruthless terrorists hellbent on world domination. Yet he saw it with his own eyes, groups of people going outside the compound to tend crops. Children going to classes. His mind fought against it but in the end. He stayed.
He has not been subject to anything beyond what all the other trainees have under gone. He hasn't been the subject of extra brutality despite his former position. He has been treated like every other recruit. Even now he knows that Bludd has started each prospect's race across the Gauntlet the same way. Their is no personal animosity simply the desire for the best. Taking it all in he goes. He has been trained by the best and trained the best. This is one more training exercise, only this time the stakes are higher then anything he's faced.
He has no weapons to use and no time limit. The only rule is survival. The first ghoul that had turned at Bludd's shout locked onto his position. It lurches towards him arms outstretched. Its bottom lip had been torn away exposing teeth and bone covered in dried blackened blood. It's eyes are sunken and grey. Its broken skin secreting a puss of nauseating ooze. The other trainees had attempted to avoid confrontation with the undead at all costs, many ended up paying or that decision with their lives. Bludd watches in astonishment as the recruit runs head long at the monster before him. He grabs it by the head and smashes it repeatedly into the charred remains of a Cadillac Escalade. Spinning he turns towards the on coming shamblers his gloves caked in gore. With a savage growl he charges. He is a raw force of destruction. His expertise in escape and evasion all but forgotten. He snatches two of the closest things slamming their heads together, the sickening sound of skulls splitting is followed by rancid brain matter spattering the ground. He is far from subtle as he paves his path of destruction crushing the craniums of any who came near. For one unlucky dragger true death came under the heal of his heavy black boot. He took his time making sure he got each and every attacker who came near. Bludd watches from the catwalk in silence, awed by the sheer brutality of the scene playing out below him. He was the lone witness to a transformation that would forever change the man below, Bludd knew that when the man left the Gauntlet below he would not emerge as the Joe who took the namesake of the harsh back country of his former homeland there would be no coming back. The trail of bloodshed finally ends. Hours after entering and hearing the steel door lock him in perdition he at last arrives at the exit. He stands peacefully waiting for the door to open.
"'Ell thawas a amazin' ting ta watch." Bludd stands aside making way for the man. He looks as if he had just emerged from the deepest bowels of Hell. His once red hair black with carnage. His uniform encrusted with the ichor and entrails of his enemies. The handful of recruits who had successfully run the gauntlet stood in formation eyes locked in awe on the thing that stood before them. He took his spot and snapped to attention. Bludd stood before him, "As I said, thawas amazin' ta watch. You went in there a wanker of a puppet regime and came out sometin' else." Turning his attention to the group he continues, "Once 'e was a member of our sworn enemy. 'E fought to protect the corruption and evil of a guvment 'ell bent on destroying' the world in the name of profits. 'E was a worthy foe but he has seen the light and has witnessed the wickedness that was our former adversary. The man known as Stuart R. Selkirk is no more. Reapers today we add another to our fold." Bludd turns to a man behind him holding a tray, upon it sits a silver crest, a pair of crossed sickles behind a hooded skull. He takes a step towards the man in front of him he places the pin over the mans heart and thrusts the end into his flesh, there is no outward expression of pain, "Congratulations and welcome to the Reapers. Brothers and Sisters welcome our newest bringer of true and final death…" As was the ritual each man or woman who passed the trials of training and survived was assigned a call sign, a name by which others would know him or her. Bludd knew the perfect name for the new Reaper. "…welcome Skull Buster."
Date: September 16, 2011 Time: 1525. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
The trip has been brutal. They have had to escape the walking dead at most every turn. While the deep jungle was sparsely populated it's as if all the inhabitants of the South America, from local tribesmen to city dwellers, have converged on their location. In the sweltering heat of the jungle the weary men march. Determined to "escort" their fearless leader to his destination. He has continued to provide for the men but even his skills have their limits. Food is scarce, he has been able to gather sufficient edible plants but he keeps coming up short on protein and fat. The lack of proper nutrition is taking its toll. Minor cuts and scrapes that an able bodied healthy man wouldn't think twice about have become infected leading to illness and fevers. And still the five men trudge wearily along the game trail, each step more demanding then the last. After a near eternity they group stumbles upon the path they have been searching for. The road is little more than ruts in the mud, a clearing made by the few passing trucks capable of navigating the thick rain forest and not getting stuck in the deep mire.
They have been following a route that will lead them through the old native village and passes close by the Viper's Nest. All tactical convention has been ignored. They walk down the center of the road in an ever changing group as opposed to sticking to the sides walking single file evenly spaced. They realized long ago that the enemy they are fighting cared nothing for military tactics. On more then one occasion they were glad to be in the road as opposed to the side as they passed draggers who lurched out of the undergrowth. At their current state of fatigue even these slow half destroyed zombies could have overtaken one of the group.
"We're almost there Commander." The words barely escape from Corporal Akin's chapped lips causing a shudder to run through his body.
Silence is the answer. The Commander has done his best to provide for his men. He realized each morsel of food provided, every drop of water gathered, each fire started, every shelter built, cemented his men's loyalty to him. But now… Now a seed of doubt is taking root.
A sound stops the group in their tracks.
"Vehicle approaching." Tomax grumbles.
Cobra Commander looks at his men, "Well what are you waiting for. That could be a rogue Joe patrol. We have made it this far to die standing still in the middle of a dirt track. If we are going to die we shall die with honor." He pulls his Luger from its holster flipping off the safety. His words stir the men to action; they take to the road's sides lying in the run off ditches weapons ready. Each man knows his line of fire. It's a tactic that has been used throughout the ages of war. The idea being that should it be an enemy they will be caught in a zone of crossing fire. The men wait as the rumbling grows. The Commander recognizes the sound as do his men, it's one that they have all heard many times before. The HISS Tank moves into sight followed by the Tactical pick-up flanked by men on either side; a Range Viper leads the way followed by a pair Swamp Vipers, a Cobra Mortal, and the remaining Vipers of Viper's Nest. The Range Viper raises his fist, immediately the column stops. Hand signals flash as each man takes a knee pointing a weapon into the jungle. The Range Viper kneels down scrutinizing the ground before him. Cautiously he makes his way forward. Each step deliberate. Eye trained down the barrel of his rifle. He stops feet from the Commander bringing his rifle to bear. Looking into the brush he he snaps to attention and offers a salute, "Commander do you need assistance?"
The Commander comes to his feet. The rest of the men come out of hiding. The troops surrounding the HISS Tank remain weapons ready with a new reason, the protection of Cobra Commander. The Range Viper calls back, the men of Viper's Nest break ranks and run up to the emerging men.
Seeing the Commander Fintak stops in his tracks, "Commander Sir, Sgt Fintak at your service."
The Commander returns the salute pointing at the men he had travelled with, "Take care of these men."
"Yes sir!" Fintak Turns towards Nason and Lee, "You heard the Commander let's get moving."
Cobra Commander turns towards the Range Viper, "Is there room on that truck for the men?"
Hesitating, "Sir we brought it for you."
"Bah! Get these men on there. They've been through enough. I shall be fine walking out."
"Sir it's 10 clicks…" the Range Viper's voice trailing off.
"Then we better move."
The Range Viper answers with a salute turns towards the group of Cobra troops and shouts out his orders, " Get those men looked at. Ready that Tactical for passengers. You four perimeter guard." The men move with efficiency quickly tending the exhausted. They clear space in the bed of the pick-up offering it to the unkempt men. "If the Commander is walking out we're walking out with him." Akin states for the group. They make the final trek providing protection for the Commander as they go. Worn out and enervated by the long trek seeing the HISS Tank and Cobra troops gives them the strength to carry on.
"Sergeant, we have incoming. The package has been secured." The Tele-Viper hands the message to Kosa. Message in hand he turns and walks out of the communication room. He walks the long hall towards the main ready room where he knows Onesi is waiting uneasily for the message. He had sent out a HISS, tactical, and a squad of men on the advisement of Agent X-99 who claimed the Commander was nearby. The last several hours have been intense. Fintak enters the room, "Lietenant." He holds up the paper. Onesi knows by the look on the Viper's face that the message holds good news.
He steps around retrieving the slip of folded paper. Carefully scanning it, "Thanks Kosa. Looks like that crazy fucker was right. Ready the Nest for the Commander's arrival."
Date: November 11, 2014. Time: 1315. Location: Mulberry, KS.
- Wh-wh-wher am I? -
The large dog lifts his heavy head from the cold floor. His eyelids are heavy and are fighting against his opening them. His body aches, it's like he had been playing with one of his litter mates all day or out chasing the bad smelling things. It takes him several minutes to rise to his feet. They feel unsteady under him, like they are not his.
- Wh-wh-wha's rong wif me? -
He stands in place unmoving. Trying to move his head brings him back to the floor. His insides hurt. Coughs and convulsions grip his body. Opening his mouth the contents of his stomach rocket out.
- Bad meat. - He growls from the floor. He's felt similar to this before, last time his favorite parts disappeared. This is worse though, he worries that his new favorite part is gone. With renewed tenacity he struggles to regain his feet. He looks at each one in turn making sure they are his. He looks between his legs, a wave of relief flowing over him, it's still there. After several more failed attempts he is able to not only stand but look around.
The room is lit but just barely, a high placed window allows some sunlight in. He looks around for his people he doesn't see them. He smells the air unwilling to trust his eyes which he knows show him funny things. Only the musty smells of rotting wood, dust, and mold fill his nostrils.
Slowly, carefully he walks around the room. He finds the door and scratches at it. It rattles but does not open. He smells under the door. Nothing. He barks. The sound echos around the small room and hurts his ears. The pain makes his eyes go funny. He won't do that again.
- Where ar dey? -
The dog wonders why his people locked him up. He strains his memory trying to recall what happened. He remembers the people playing with his friends. The bad meat. Then… He walks the perimeter of the room again looking for anything. Coming back to the door he jumps up slamming his giant paws against it. It shakes but again stays closed. He looks at the window. Five feet off the floor the window sits. It looks big. He cocks his head to the side trying to figure out… An itch distracts him. He scratches at it with his foot and tries to chew it off. It goes away, - Dat il teach itch to bodder me. - His task complete Scooby sits down wondering where his people are. He looks at the door. Then the window. He scans the room. A pile of large crates are stacked near the window. Scooby walks to the door. He scratches at it again. Still locked. He looks at the window. Somewhere an idea is growing in his canine brain.
As he sits staring first at the door then the window he hears it. A faint almost inaudible scream. It's his person. Shaggy. He stands growling. What he heard lasted less then a second but it was enough. Scooby charges the crates throwing his weight against them. Once. Twice. The third time they topple, several breaking in the process.
Others fall in front of the window. He climbs on them carefully placing his feet with each step. The window is just the right size. He could go out it but not only is there glass but also wood on the outside. This perplexes him. Sitting on top of the boxes head again cocked to the side Scooby tries to make a plan. As he sits he hears keys at the door. He turns looking at it. Rising up. He smells the air but can't tell who is on the other side. It might be his people. As the door knob turns Scooby lowers his head and bares his teeth. His instincts telling him it is not his friends. It opens, "Now just what the hell is going on in there?" The man says no more. As quickly as he opened the door the Great Dane is upon him, his powerful jaws sinking sharp teeth into the man's jugular. And just like that Scooby Doo is free. He stands over the man letting loose a long menacing growl that would terrify even the bravest of men. He looks left and right. Seeing an open door to the outside he heads for it. Carefully he looks, listens, and most importantly sniffs the air before leaving. The smell of people is faint. He steps out into the sun. The building where he was a captive is directly across from the church. He runs across the street to the open church doors. He enters with a snarl only to find it empty. Quickly he put his nose to the ground and searches for his people.
Left and right the dog walks swinging his nose. Sweeping for a scent trail. Finally he finds one. It is almost gone but its enough. He follows it out of the church and down the street. He comes to a door. Pushing his muzzle against it it opens. Inside all is black. He is at a loss. His instincts tell him to run away. But his people are there and he knows its not good. Pacing back an forth in front of the door Scooby tries to make a decision. Instinct is a powerful thing. Then he hears it again, the scream of his person. Before his mind understands what his feet are doing he is through the door. Darkness envelopes him. His eyes are no good, but his ears and his nose… He tracks the direction of Shaggy and Velma with efficiency, the winding path designed to confuse and confound no match for his mighty nose. His sense of smell takes him directly to a large door. Pushing against it it stands closed. Defiant to his strength. He scratches at it to no avail. The smell of his people is strong from under it. As is the stench of blood and gore. He knows they are on the other side. He jumps against it. Digs at the floor. Nothing works. Inside he can hear the rising discord of a group. Above them he hears the loud voice of the man in the robe. Louder still the screams of not just one but now two. Shaggy and Velma scream, their voices booming throughout the underground labyrinth. The combination of the noise and the scents drives Scooby into a frenzy. Again and again he jumps at the door slamming into it.
The timeless wood absorbs each impact. Others stronger then this one have tried to enter the chamber which it blocks none succeeded.
Inside the scene is one of utter desperation as Shaggy and Velma plead and scream, their fear mounting with every breath.
Outside Scooby's rage boils over. He uses his body as a battering ram slamming repeatedly into the door. A door that has stood the test of time. A door that rested the Vikings. A door that has resisted gods. He has no chance, yet with the loyalty demonstrated only by canines he struggles on. Man's best friend. The first beast to be coaxed out of the darkness by the waiting hand of man. A creature who for millennia has stood as guardian, protector, companion, friend. A beast whose heart is true. No guile. No deceit. No jealousy. Just the purity of an evolutionary track that brought man and dog together. Never before has the door faced such clarity of purpose. Never has it faced an opponent free from the commission of sin. The magics which bind it, which give it strength, begin to wane under Scooby's selfless determination. Blood courses down his side, from his paws. His nails begin to break under the unabated clawing. The blood drips to the ground. The rock digests it as it has all the life fluid that has fallen upon since before time began. The wood cracks.
He hears the words of his person. Begging. Pleading. Scooby doesn't stop. His throat horse from his endless barking. The wood gives. The door bursts open. Something unfathomable. Scooby's eyes immediately fall upon his people. Tied atop one another on the macabre stone. Their fur is missing. Their screaming is continuous. A man stands in front of them back to Scooby. Above his head he holds a blade. Surrounding them a crowd of people lost in trance, bodies swaying in erratic fashion as they shout recitations.
Scooby runs towards his people. The incantations never cease. The followers completely engrossed by the primitive words. The giant dog launches himself at the man before him. He sinks his fangs into the back of the mans neck knocking him forward. The sharp blade in his hands nicks the ropes tying Velma and Shaggy down. Seeing their canine companion the two struggle against the ropes. Lacerations spread as they fight the binds. Scooby drags the man to the floor dropping him like a rag doll. Father Flagg coughs and chokes as blood fills his lungs. Power escaping his body as the followers continue on, their trancelike state holding them rapt.
The rope holding Velma and Shaggy gives. After several more determined twists they are free. From the sarcophagus they fall to the ground, bodies bruised, battered, and bloodied. With fire in her eyes Velma reaches for the man at whose hands she suffered. Her small hand wraps around his throat digging in. He does not struggle. "You?!" Her words angry as she recognizes the man before her, his expertly applied prosthetics having been torn off when Scooby attacked. She had seen his picture before; he was a sociopath of the highest order, a master manipulator and hypnotist, rumored to have psychic abilities, a known agent of Cobra, Crystal Ball.
A wretched smile creeps across his face upon her recognition knowing his reputation had preceded him.
"Why?" The one word spit from her throat like venom.
"The Great Old One. He has spoken. He has chosen."
"There is no Great Old One."
"Blasphemer!" Hissing blood he knows how this all ends, as do his followers. "Our GOD has demanded it." As if addressing an unheard voice he continues, "I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for…" The blade enters his heart without a sound. The body crumbles to the ground. Velma stands bloody knife in hand. She watches as the blood drains from the corpse. The ancient stone taking in each droplet. The chanting ceases. Without a word the people file out of the cavern leaving Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby in utter silence.
"Where are they going?"
Velma turns and watches as the last of the believers exits the cavern. "To their graves."
The three stumble and struggle their way back to the Mystery Machine. The streets of the town empty. The full moon high. They do their best to tend their wounds. Velma refusing offers of help from her friend. Instead Shaggy focuses on his dog. Between each pass of the alcohol soaked bandage Shaggy scratches Scooby behind his ears. He takes the dogs head in both hands and looks into his deep black eyes, "Thanks Scooby Doo." A big wet tongue is Scooby's reply. Shaggy finishes with the dog then works on his own wounds knowing there are some that no amount of antiseptic will heal.
"Let's go." Shaggy turns to the words to find Velma bandaged and dressed. Wearing one of her trademark pleated skirts, knee socks and combat boots, her sweater replaced by a tank top. In her arms she struggles to hold an M-60, ammunition draped over her shoulder. On her belt several fragmentation and thermite grenades.
"Don't Shaggy. We are ending this town."
"Oh I'm not gonna stop you. I just want to know where I can get one of those." He nods towards the big weapon.
"You can have this one. It's too much for me anyway." He stands and takes the hefty machine gun.
"It's gonna feel better in a minute." She grabs a SAW. The weapon is lighter and more manageable then the M-60 but just as destructive. They had procured the military weapons from the home of a self-proclaimed gun nut, Craig McConnel, the same guy who had given her the file on Crystal Ball as well as other Cobra operators who meddled with the macabre and otherworldly. He said he had no more need for either the weapons or the files, he was going to head to the sea and spend his last days surfing the waves. He had gone on about how weapons couldn't save him at the end of the world. Now however, while they might not save Velma and Shaggy from the end of the world they just might save their sanity.
Charging the weapon, "You ready Shag."
"You better believe it."
The night is filled with the reverberation of machine gun fire. Much to the chagrin of Velma and Shaggy none of the towns occupants put up a fight. They find them lying in their beds awaiting the Grim Reaper. When the smoke clears the streets are flooded with the blood of the guilty. Velma and Shaggy head to the building from which they escaped the terrors of the underground lair. They toss several grenades into the coal-black passage. The explosion rocks the very foundation of the town.
Velma, Shaggy and Scooby silently limp their way back to the Mystery Machine, replace the weapons in their crates, buckle up and drive into the night.
Deep underground the concussion from the blast knocks one of the votives from its pedestal. It shatters upon the floor, the broken stone revealing the decrpit body of a creature identical in appearance to the statuary. It takes but a single breath with which it lets out a nightmarish shriek before shriveling and being consumed by the timeworn rock.
Upon the dais the Sarcophagus has sat unchanged since its creation. Defended and protected by the demons at the five corners. With one destroyed their power wanes. A crack appears in the ancient container. Green light escapes. From somewhere within and beyond a laugh.