Earthbound: 2222 A.D.
This is the third group collaboration I have taken part in. First and foremost, I want to extend my thanks for the following writers who have put in their time and I daresay, fantastic effort with this novella. Without them, of course, there would be no story to put here, and obviously, I wouldn’t be writing all this.
Not counting myself, you will find their names at the end of each chapter.
If you like zombie or undead stories, then this is right up your alley. So, kick back, relax and enjoy.
This is where I would say turn the page and start reading, but instead, scroll down.
"Command Center? This is Captain Clint Raymond. The crew is set in their pods for our return to earth and once our communication is completed, I will enter my pod. All geo-computer systems are supporting full functionality and are programmed to open the pods once we enter earth's atmosphere. We will then dock at the Space Station to refuel one final time and will make contact from there.
“Meantime, all 243 samples are stored and accounted for from Mars and Neptune. The scientists will have a field day with all this stuff.”
"Star Ride 12, sounds like a go then. Contact us the minute you enter the Space Station, and then our air space. We will begin preparations to extract you from your landing base.”
“Phil? How’s the weather back there? Please let my wife and kids know I should be back there within four years. The crew also asked me if you would inform their families as well.”
“Clint, weather here is cold as ice. Winter’s here since your take-off has been brutal. With any luck on your end, you might get back here sometime in the spring or mid-summer. But, will do. One we end transmission; I will start making calls.”
“Roger that. It is going to feel good to be back on earth.”
“Clint, there have been some changes since you have been gone. First, once you are extracted, you will be held in solitaire for thirty days for medical evaluations. We have been hit with a severe pandemic while you were away. Not just here either. It’s global. Well over four-billion lives have been lost to what they are now calling, To Telos. It’s Greek for the end.
“But your family is fine, just as the crew's families are as well. They have all been inoculated, so not to worry there. You guys may not even recognize them as they have grown in the last couple of years you have been away.”
“I had thought about that myself, but the other stuff sounds bad.”
“It is, but that is only half the problem now.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the other half?”
“This Covid strain is changing people.”
“Did you ever watch zombie movies?”
“I’ve seen a few, why?”
“That’s what some people are becoming. Right now, we have things under control with the military being involved, but it’s as if each day that passes, they kill fifty and another hundred are spawned.”
“If it were anyone but you telling me this I would laugh, but I’m not laughing. Phil. I need to end this transmission as we are approaching Vectore-2273, and if I don’t get in my pod soon, the velocity of speed Star Ride will maximize to will crush me like crazy.”
“Roger that, Clint. We’ll talk more after you have returned. Make your crew aware of the situation here so there are no surprises.”
“Will do. This is Star Ride 12, signing off.”
Clint flipped the switch off, removed his headphones and headed for his pod. He couldn’t help but smile at the thought of people becoming zombies but at the same time, the picture of his wife Carla, and his two boys, Andy, and Zach, being eaten alive was nothing to smile about.
Reaching his pod, he slipped inside, and gave out his last command for the moment.
“Anita, open my pod once we reach the outer perimeter of the Space Station.”
“Certainly, Captain Raymond. Arrival time will be four years, two months, three weeks, thirteen hours, fourteen minutes, eleven seconds.”
As the cover descended over Clint, he smiled. Anita is such a punctual computer.
On Earth, September 17, 2218, large masses of undead were scouring the cities and countryside intent on one thing: devouring anything that moved.
Military units and the National Guard were deployed in various sectors, but the obvious was soon to become not so obvious. It was getting where there were more undead than ever before. The military in most citywide areas were overrun and they either retreated or were eaten. Members of the National Guard, many of whom were young, bolted in terror when they would see hundreds of lifeless eyes approaching them, and when they, like the military, fired on them, they kept coming, not caring who fell or where. By the end of the year, cities such as Los Angles, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia would be lifeless. Washington D.C., had already made plans for evacuation, getting the president, vice-president, members of Congress and other federal staff workers to safe houses below ground until things were firmly back in control. The only problem with that; no one had an idea when control would be back.
The United States wasn’t the only situation though. All throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa, human remains could be found wasting away rotting under extremely hot temperatures.
As one person put it, “In the movies, you could shoot them in the head, and they would fall down and die. Not so much now. Shoot’em in the head and they just get up and keep coming. That’s not how the script was written.”
The door unlocked and Clint was awakened by a familiar voice.
“Captain Raymond, it is now March 16, 2222, and we are forty-five minutes away from docking with the International Space Station. Would you like me to awaken the rest of the crew?”
Sitting up, blinking away the sleep from his eyes, “Yes, Anita, and tell them to meet me in the command room.”
Stretching, he then swung his legs to the side and stood, slowly making his way to the command center. His first thoughts as he made his way there were the last words he heard from Phil. This would be the first thing he would talk to the crew about.
Five, good, smart people, each with a unique specialty in the sciences, but neither he nor them would have any clue how to combat what is happening on earth.
Dale Caruthers is the onboard mechanic and all-around Mr. Fix it, inside or outside the ship. Strapping man, nearing forty, played college football at Ohio State as a tackle and still in good enough shape that he could knock you down in a heartbeat and never break a sweat.
Jules Verone, a mild person with a penchant for archeology. Short, a bit on the heavy side, but rarely speaks unless spoken to, or has an interesting find.
Brad Marconi, navigator, and this is his eighth trip into space but the first, like Clint and the others, to have gone as far as they have. As Brad put it, “Virgin territory.” This is also Brad’s last sojourn as he plans to retire from NASA when he returns home. That is, if there still is a NASA.
Margo Jessup. Teacher, archeologist, recorder. Divorced, late thirties, and at one time for a few years a professional wrestler if you can believe that one since she’s barely 5’4” and a hundred twenty on a rainy day. Jet black hair and deep-set eyes though give her the appearance she could put you down easy enough—man or woman.
No one on the team had recent military experience and when he explained what was going on with earth; he knew there wasn’t much if anything they could do to avert the situation.
Arriving at the command center, he took his seat, placed the headphones over his ears and radioed a signal message for pick up from the Space Station. Since the radio frequency bounces down to earth and back to the Space Station, any of the four men currently stationed there, can pick up a message through a ham radio. From the corner of his eye, he could see the crew entering as each took their seats.
“I repeat, ISS. This is Star Ride, and we are approaching the docking area for refueling. Do you copy.”
All he could hear was nothing but static coming back.
“Is anyone there? Come in. We are awaiting clearance to dock.”
“Ye-yes, I am here. I will program Robonaut-17 to prepare docking for you but …”
The pause had Clint worried.
“There are only two of us still alive here. The others have died from malnutrition, and I can’t tell you how much longer we may be alive as we have eaten the last of the rations, I think, four days ago. The last supply ship left here eighteen months ago and hasn’t returned.”
Clint knew something was seriously wrong. Supply ships come out to the station every six months with food and new crews. It made him wonder why Brad never said anything.
“Who am I speaking with?”
“Darryl Addams. The other person with me is Elana Mycrovitch.”
“When did you last hear from Nasa?”
“A long time. Not since the last supply ship left here.”
“Then Darryl, get the dock ready. We have an ample supply of food and water. Hang in there. We should be there within minutes.”
After signing off he turned to his crew.
“I have some not so good news to tell all of you.”
Written By: Danceinsilence
Chapter One: While They Were Gone
“Mama, I’m hungry.”
“I know, honey,” says Carla Raymond, stroking her thin daughter’s hair. The year was 2221, and Carla, along with the other families, were counting down the days until their significant others would return.
Carla bit at the chance to use her knowledge and skill to board the ISS when Phil made her the offer, but she stressed demands to take her daughter along and that she wouldn’t be a bother or get in anyone’s way. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be allowed by any means, but times then were no longer classified as normal. But it would give her the chance to see Clint when he docked at the ISS and introduce him to Maria.
Maria Raymond, Carla’s daughter, had almost no memory of her father other than what she told her. Her early childhood memories of her warm, kindhearted father were being replaced by hunger and the cold, steel walls of the containment center. And Clint hadn’t yet known he now has a daughter. The pregnancy came as a surprise to her about five weeks after Clint left for space. Now, as things stand, he may never see Maria alive.
“Mama, when do we get to go home?”
Carla didn’t answer. She’s busy thinking about her husband, but more than anything, she’s thinking about the zombies, and the delayed supply ships.
We don’t have much time left, she thinks, looking around at the dozens of haggard, starving faces. What if there’s nothing for him to come back to?
Just a little longer, she counters. We can go just a little longer.
She’s not so sure she’s telling herself the truth.
She looks back down at Maria. The youngest. Her baby. She couldn’t let her die. Not yet.
Her sons, Andy and Zach were with her parents on earth and prayed every day and night they were all safe. The devastation caused by the zombies drove them and her parents into an underground shelter that at one time, people laughed at her father as he built it himself.
“Laugh,” he said, “but one day this may save our lives.”
Carla hoped every day he was right.
Her sons weren’t little boys any longer. They are young, strong men but how long could they hold out? How long could anyone with what has been happening? There had been a few times bile would rise at the thought of her family being eaten alive and then becoming like them.
She should never have agreed to this. Never. She should have made Clint stay home where he belonged. With his family.
She wondered if they’d ever feel like a family again. Julie was never ready to be a mom. Clint had asked, and of course, she’d said yes. She could never say no to Clint, and had never really wanted to. And she’d done okay, with Clint by her side. But without Clint… she felt like she was letting her children down.
To Telos. That’s what they started calling it. Fitting.
Because she thinks she might be nearing her end. She’s given every scrap, every ration, to Julie. She’s always been on the heavier side. Even now, after a prolonged period of near starvation, someone looking at her might call her overweight. Her mama used to tell her she was built different. It didn’t matter what she ate, she was always teased. Always ridiculed. So many people might have been jealous of her. At this moment, she looked like she was well-fed, and of course, that made the rumors fly.
She paid no attention, merely kept stroking her youngest daughter’s hair. Their words didn’t hurt her. She had a wonderful husband.
A wonderful daughter and two fine sons. She had her life, and she didn’t care what anyone else thought, because they couldn’t take that away.
She looked up from her occupied lap at the man before her. It was the brother of one of the crew members, she recognized him from the liftoff. She hadn’t really talked to him before, but she always felt like he was a nice guy. She hoped he was a nice guy.
As it turns out, Mark Caruthers, brother to Dale Caruthers, was a nice guy. But he was also a coward.
And so, when the rest of the ship voted, he was nominated to act.
“We know you’ve been stealing food,” he says. “Eating more than your share.”
“I have not,” she says, keeping her voice steady. “I’ve been giving every bit to Maria, and I certainly would never deprive you or your kids, either.”
Now, she loses it, standing up and pushing Maria off her lap.
“No! Don’t you dare say my name like that. I’m not fucking lying, Mark!”
Mark stared at her, his face filled with pity. “Carla, we know this is hard. It’s hard for all of us. But you’re only making things harder by lying. We have an eyewitness.”
“An eyewitness? Liar! Whoever they are, they’re a liar!”
“Mommy, what’s happening?” Maria asks, tugging at her sleeve.
“Nothing, honey, don’t worry about it…”
Maria doesn’t believe her Mama. She wonders what Mama is hiding, and why nobody tells her anything.
She lunges for the bigger man standing next to Mark; she doesn’t know his name.
“Get away from my mama!” she yells. “Stop being a meanie!”
No one saw who shot the bullet. No one saw any smoke, or a gun.
There was only the earsplitting sound, and Carla Raymond crumpled to the ground.
“What have you done?” Maria whispers. “What have you done to my mama?”
She lunges, tears stream down her face at Mark, and all hell breaks loose. A second shot rings out and Maria slumps to the floor inches away from Carla.
Mark and the larger man just stood there, perplexed looks on their faces as if sorting out what just happened.
From behind them, a man and a woman snuck away. Right before everything got lethal, they crawled away, and they hid.
Their names were Darryl Addams and Elana Mycrovitch.
Written By: WhiteWolfe32
Chapter Two: Seeing Is Believing
“Zombies? Wait. You mean actual zombies?” Dale Caruthers stared quizzically at Darryl Addams, the latter scarfing down his rations ravenously.
“Humph” Darryl confirmed, mouth too full to articulate his response. Crumbs of solidified protein extract floated away from his unkempt beard, and he grabbed at them with erratic fingers, depositing them back into his mouth with the same kind of desperate enthusiasm one might observe in a startled squirrel.
“You mean honest to goodness real dead people up and walkin’ and snack’n on the living?” Brad Marconi inquired, mirroring Dale’s incredulity.
“That is correct.” Elana said, taking over the conversation and glancing with slight contempt at her gluttonously non-talkative comrade before scanning the Star Ride’s crew skeptically. “Were you not informed by your mission commander four years ago?”
Captain Raymond broke his silent rumination and addressed the two ISS survivors with his customary air of calm authority. “We were informed. Though part of me thought, and hoped, that Phil was joking. What was the last known condition on Earth before you lost contact?”
“As Addams told you before, we have not heard from NASA or anyone else in more than a year. The last transmission we received was from ROSCOSMOS, sixteen month ago. They informed us that approximately ninety percent of humans on Earth were decimated at that time, and they themselves were running out of ammunition to fend off swathes of living dead. So, it is no surprise that we did not hear from them anymore.”
Clint Raymond nodded his receipt of this information, concern written over his suddenly gaunt features. Her tone was jarringly nonchalant, especially given the dire nature of the discussion.
Jules Verone gestured timidly towards the holster hugging the Russian woman’s severely slim hip. “You have a TP-82 cosmonaut survival pistol? Didn’t they stop issuing those in 2007?”
Elana Mycrovitch raised her sharp eyebrow, surprised at the shrewd man’s obscure knowledge. “Yes, my grandfather is a collector of ancient relics and he passed it down to me. He is, or was, how you call, superstitious? It is trinket, for good luck.”
“Is it functional?”
“But of course.” Elana smiled, patting her ‘trinket’ affectionately.
“Well, it’s no use floating around up here twiddling our thumbs and gushing over antiques,” Margo Jessup piped up indignantly, “We’re going to have to go back to Earth and check out the surface for ourselves. Sooner the better. Some of us might have loved ones down there. Not me. But still.”
“Margo’s right.” Clint agreed decisively, “There’s no question we’ll have to go back eventually, for food and water if nothing else, and there’s no point beating around the bush. Might as well head down as soon as Star Ride’s done refueling. I’m determined to find out exactly what happened to our families while we were gone.”
Darryl gave Elana a nervous glance which no-one else saw.
Clint paused briefly, distracted by worrying about his wife and kids, but then forced his mind to focus on practicality and relay a rational course of action; “Brad, lay in a course for Earth. I don’t have to tell you to take the extreme weather into account. According to the satellite images from this vantage point, most of North America’s surface is covered in snow. We’ll touch down near Houston at the old 2100 landing base, which seems to be a little less icy.”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” Brad saluted, heading off through the docking tube to pour over weather schematics in the cockpit of their trusty ship.
“Jules,” Clint continued, “I understand that this isn’t your specialty precisely, but you still know more about biology than any of us here. Any speculative light you can shed on the... science... of the undead situation would be much appreciated.”
“Ah, actually,” Darryl raised his hand as though he were in kindergarten, finally having licked his ration-wrapper into speckless condition and seeming to notice for the first time that he was among other humans. He looked at each of them with wide-eyed apologetic gratitude and shyly professed; “I have a doctorate in chemistry, zoology, and microbiology. I was sent here initially to analyze the samples you guys brought back from Mars, to see if they contained any life forms. I’m also a certified field medic if it is in any way helpful.”
“Good to hear. We’re extremely glad to have your expertise available, Doctor Addams. No doubt we’ll all be picking your brains on the way down. Welcome aboard.” Clint patted Darryl lightly on his bony shoulder and shook his hand firmly before turning back to the others.
“Dale, give Star Ride a once over. A twice-over. Heck, make it a thrice-over. Make damn sure all of Anita’s nuts and bolts are in tip top working order. We can’t afford anything going wrong upon re-entry. Margo, the seven of us might very well be the last surviving vestige of humanity. Someone has to write all this horseshit down for posterity, and I can think of no-one in the whole wide universe whose interstellar recording abilities I trust more. All right boys and girls, let’s all pretend that we have a smidgen of military training here, shall we? Move out!”
April fools... too bad there’s no-one left who’ll appreciate the humor in that ancient tradition. Ironically, it feels a little as though some cosmic god has pulled a prank on us. We had a rocky touch down, Star Ride’s docking clamps slipping off the landing pad due to frozen blood lining the area, but Dale said that the damage to Anita’s navigation system was minimal and that we should still be able to use her to lift off again if we need to relocate. We’ve been in our spacesuits constantly ever since we landed. It was Jules’ recommendation: modifying the oxygen trcyc-system to filter out the airborne virus. I can’t say it’s been comfortable sleeping in these clunky bastards, and I needn’t give any details as to the unpleasant waste-management system. Egh. I guess toilet humor doesn’t translate well through a voice-recording meant to chronicle the final hapless days of humanity. But who gives a flying dung pile at this point? No one’s going to get a chance to hear this anyway. I think I might be going a little crazy. Mycrovitch knows something she’s not telling us, and I think Dr. Addams might be in on it too. I don’t trust them. Heck, they don’t even trust each other. I can’t imagine them surviving those years together on the International Space Station. Must’ve been hell.
Ha. Hell... more like Heaven compared to this. I wish now I hadn’t suggested rushing down from that claustrophobic space-bucket back to Earth.
It’s so much worse here than I thought. Worse than any of us thought. The planet we used to call home is utterly unrecognizable. We landed in the middle of the night and the bodies were frozen at first, but as soon as they thawed out around midday they reanimated, attacking anything and everything in their path. This cycle has been repeating daily. During the most dangerous intervals, from around 12 to 7pm, we’ve been seeking shelter in derelict buildings and taking out the soulless wretches who wander brainlessly into the path of our survival instincts.
Dr Addams speculated that the virus must be altering tissue at the molecular level, reforming each cell into its own entity which instinctually groups with others in the host organism’s original form but is then capable of surviving on its own when severed from the collective, all the way down to a single-celled lifeform. Jules seems dubious of this explanation though, so we still don’t know anything for a fact. It remains to be seen if the virus can alter a living host or whether it preys exclusively on the dead.
In the past two weeks I’ve seen everything. Every disturbing snippet of grotesque horror ever devised by human imagination, amplified threefold and shoved down our throats in sickening doses of reality. To own the truth, I’m glad to wear the suit, if only to guard my nostrils against the smell of rotting flesh which I know must be pervading the air. In the past few days alone I’ve seen a severed hand clawing at the entrails of its own headless torso, I’ve seen a dead infant chewing its way out of its mother’s gaping belly, and the broken-jawed mother biting ineffectually at its own offspring’s slippery writhing form. I’ve seen countless pounds of flesh which used to comprise human beings consuming countless others, incomprehensibly continuing to senselessly eat, even when their own digestive tracts are nothing but time-fettered mush. I’ve seen hordes upon hordes of mindless devourers, not seeming to care if they are eating living beings or just gorging on each other. And as soon as I look up from this recorded entry, I’ll see more.
Burning them seems to be the best way we’ve found to dispatch them so far; we’ve armed ourselves with flame-lasers from our archaeological equipment accordingly. Dale even put together a makeshift weapon which sprays ethanol at the animated remains, igniting the target with a flame-laser at the same time. It’s been our most effective attempt at cleansing the area so far, especially against the more mobile corpses whose leg muscles haven’t been completely eaten away or rotted out yet. Those mostly intact carcasses are different from the rest; terrifyingly fast and agile.
We haven’t found any humans alive yet. And so far, it doesn’t look like we will.
The team is on the move again, so I’ll have to end the entry here. This is Margo Jessup. Signing off.
Written By: EstherFlowers1
Chapter Three: Secrets Laid Wide Open
It had only been two weeks since they landed. Two weeks of constant awareness. At least they were all safe within the confines of Star Ride.
Several times, hordes of zombies would pound repeatedly on the capsule’s door either with their fists or with heavy metal objects, but it got them nowhere.
When they went outside in a group of three or more (never just one), at least they had their fire lasers to protect themselves but even that was soon to be put to an end. They were running out of fuel and when they tried getting fuel, they would often have to run back to Star Ride as the deathly dead-walkers would begin to descend on them.
Clint and the others knew without the fire lasers, they were no match when it came down to it. The odds were too great. Seven against hundreds and what felt like thousands would be impossible to win. The idea now was survival. Survival the best way they could.
When all seven left the ISS, they took with them a radio transponder, electronic records of what had transpired, including those logs of the men and women who died as well as assorted video compiled by thirty cameras stationed on the ISS.
These were things Clint knew he had to go through but at the same time he kept putting it off only because he couldn’t bear to read about the deaths of his wife and son. Starvation. That had to be a hell of a way to die where your insides start feeding off yourself.
Clint set up a schedule from dawn to dark where someone would be on the radio to raise someone up anyone that wasn’t a zombie. For that matter, anyone that's still alive.
Clint made certain there were ample batteries for the walkie-talkies so when outside they could maintain constant touch with each other if split into groups of three and four.
It was his turn on the radio and as he continually sent out may day signals, he started watching the tapes. Most of which showed the ISS crew doing their jobs. It also showed his wife, Carla, with a small girl by her side who looked remarkably like Carla. Could it be he had a daughter? A daughter that also died on the ISS. Neither Darryl nor Elana ever mentioned a young child on board. Why is that? When they return to Star Ride it will be one of the first things he questions them about. And why would Carla, or for that matter, Mission Control allow such a thing? Had things been that bad then?
Clint felt a few tears trickle down his face, not just for Carla but also for the daughter he would never come to know. Did Darryl or Elana know her name? He needed to know her name.
Again, he tried transmitting.
“This is Captain Clint Raymond from the United States, transmitting from the Houston’s Mission Control area. We have returned from a mission from outer space. Is there anyone out there? Do you read me? Is there anyone out there?”
Like all the other times, nothing but static could be heard. Giving it a break after several unsuccessful attempts, he started browning the video reels again. After eleven go throughs, the twelfth one caused him to sit back, pause and then scream in a fit of rage. He saw both Carla and his daughter murdered, and it was all on film.
He could make out Dale’s brother Mark, t6he other man he didn’t know, but neither of them were responsible. But the video reel showed a partial segment of two people running the opposite way of where Carla died. Two people that were on the ISS murdered his wife and daughter.
Thinking back on conversations with both Darryl and Elana, and thinking on it now, some of the things they told him, and his crew were starting to not add up. The more he thought, the more his anger was welling inside him. He would have answers before the day was over, although he already suspected what the answers were.
What is that saying? When it rains it pours? There was no rain, but the shit did hit the fan.
Clint called us altogether for a meeting shortly after we came back with more food sup0plies, mostly canned goods and bottled water, and coffee. I can’t think straight without coffee.
Truth be told, after Clint showed us the video reel, I felt more like downing a fifth of vodka. It was a cruel thing to see. And Dale had tears in his eyes when he saw his brother.
After we all watched, Clint started questioning Darryl and Elana on the supposed deaths they said everyone succumbed too. Clint wanted to know what had happened to the bodies of Carla and the young girl. He wanted to kno0w where the other bodies went.
It was all coming to a head and the look in Clint’s eyes told us everything. He didn’t buy into their story of malnutrition, and frankly neither did anyone else. Hell, Brad and Jules and I had to restrain Dale. He was all set to lay into Darryl. Maybe we should have let him.
It was Elana who told us what really happened.
“Darryl had this plan and at first, I was against it. But the more he said our chances of survival out there would be greater if we eliminated everyone when each person was alone. As to the weapon, it was small but deadly. It was a Swiss mini-gun, about the size of a fob. It fires tiny 2.34mm shells at 270mph bullets powerful enough to kill at close range but the beauty of it, it makes no real sound.
“At first, I was against the idea but then I started thinking of how much longer we would be up there—trapped, without a way home. Suddenly, the idea of survival at all costs built inside me. But I tell you now, it was Darryl who killed them all. I only got each person away from those on board. Isolated, they were easy targets.
“As for the bodies, they were jettisoned off the ISS and are probably still drifting in space.”
The way she explained everything was such a matter of fact without an ounce of sadness in her voice. I wanted to strangle the bitch myself.
Clint did something I had never seen him do before and that was knock out three of Darryl’s teeth and kick him in the head. No one bothered to stop him but when he had his senses back intact, what he did say made us all stand up and take notice.
“I’m not a judge, but today I am your jury. There are no prisons left more than likely to send you to, but I can send you off Star Ride for good. As of right now, you are to leave here and never come back. Neither you nor Elana are welcomed here.” Turning to Elana he said more than asked, “What was the little girl’s name.”
It was 2016 hours when we were finished, and at 2019 hours, both Darryl and Elana disembarked off Star Ride and all their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Personally, I hope the zombies get sick eating their bodies. This is Margo Jessup. Signing off.
Written By: Danceinsilence
Chapter Four: Purpose
Sorrow toys with the brain and keeps it from functioning as it normally would, but Clint performed his leadership duties with the same diligence and precision as before.
Yet, by the time everybody else had retired for the evening, at 2100 hours, he had not. He sat, staring into the darkness, as minutes and hours ticked by.
A daughter, Maria, that he had never met before, but she was dead. Both his sons and his wife, as well. His children were murdered and the bodies drifting around in space.
The mental image he, all of them, had drawn for when they came back … none of those ideas lasted and remained. More than eight years in space, fulfilling their obligations under service of the ISS … they come home to no more home.
Brad Marconi shuffled into the room, joining Clint. He sat down and stared in the same direction, at the whitened wall.
“You should be resting, Brad,” he said with a strained voice.
“I have radio duty tomorrow, but you are planning to go out there. I am sorry about your wife and children.”
“It’s in the past now … perhaps it was even for the better.”
The older man sighed.
“This was my eighth trip into space…I imagined coming to retire on a sunny island after this last mission. I’ve never regretted not having a wife and children, but I do understand your pain.”
“It would have been better for them,” he continued, “to die knowing how and why. Not murdered, because Addams and Mycrovitch wanted to ensure their own survival.”
Clint rose and flexed his fists.
Brad looked at his captain, glanced away, before standing as well.
“Everything I’ve seen outside of the Star Ride makes me sick. I’m not interested in my sunny island anymore; I just want to return to space and live the rest of my life there...safe and peacefully.”
“You’ve seen it out there, Clint. Zombie after zombie, and we cannot fight them forever. What do you hope to find here on Earth? Don’t we stand a better chance out there in space? Or, at least in less populated areas?”
“Go, Brad. You should be resting. We’ll talk again tomorrow.” He turned, striding to the door.
“Clint…We can’t fight these things and try to exterminate all of them. I’ve been with NASA since I was a teenage kid; it’s been nearly fifty years. I know how to get us from one point to another. That is my life, setting a course with purpose and direction. What is our purpose, staying here?”
There was no reply, as Clint scurried out of the door.
Margo Jessup here, doing a quick report before we head out, a moment outside before dark.
After turning Darryl and Elana from the Star Ride, we retired for the evening. Not surprisingly, I slept well.
This morning, we woke up to a rainy morning, and the zombies all around the Star Ride, waiting for us to exit.
Hordes and hordes of them, row after row. They surrounded the ship, not hitting it or exhibiting physical signs of aggression.
It was their faces that scared me most; eyes very nearly glowing with malicious anticipation. I never knew zombies could sneer or smirk, but these were.
Clint ordered us to stay inside, until the weather changed. Dale and Brad have both been spending the morning trying to convince Clint that we should head back into space.
If there was any fuel and adequate food supplies sitting around, waiting for us to pick up and go, I would have supported that notion.
Jules is determined that we will stay and try to solve the problem here.
Though his knowledge in biology is still lacking, if we consider the scope of the situation, he is determined that we should try to help turn everything around.
He has been studying and observing as much of this virus as possible. Currently, he is studying the early symptoms once somebody has been exposed. Against all odds, let’s hope that never happens to us.
The rain has subsided, and the sun is finally shining again. The army of zombies has retreated for the time being, though it is still unsafe to leave Star Ride.
Margo Jessup, signing off.
He gathered them together. Brad stood with Dale on one side of the room, Clint in the middle, and Margo joined Jules on the other side.
He stood silently, as if in contemplation, for a few moments. Then, clearing his throat, he stepped forward and looked from one side to the other.
“What we expected to find here isn’t the same as what we found. For those of us who had families: they are dead and floating in space. I must ask myself what are we still doing here? Why don’t we come up with a plan to survive out in space, and why don’t we escape this nightmare?”
Another glance from one to the other side.
“What if there are no other humans still alive and hiding somewhere on Earth? What if we are the last ones remaining?” A pause. “I refuse to believe that. Dr. Addams and Miss Mycrovitch survived until we found them. Yes, they had been safe from the chaos on Earth, but they survived.”
“It doesn’t matter what we have seen so far, because we will go on seeing it and soaring over this world, until we find somebody who needs us.”
“And then?” Dale asked, his voice uncertain. “If we find somebody who needs us? What do we do then?”
“One step at a time, Caruthers,” Clint replied formally. “We can work out the second step, after we’ve completed the first. For now, we continue with what we’re doing.”
“What if we are infected?” It was Dale, again.
Silence reigned, for only half a minute.
“One step at a time…For now, we are healthy and well. Let’s look at the positive and what we want to happen. Leave the what ifs of negative situations for until they happen.”
“And if we run out of fuel and supplies?” Brad stepped forward.
“Then we hope that the universe still likes us enough to care about our basic needs.”
Written By: GLD
Chapter Five: Plans
Chapter Five Part I: Creating A Plan
As the group looked through the reinforced glass windows after their hopeful conversation about the future, the zombies made their way once more to Star Ride, beating on the ship with their hands and heads. Some had rocks they threw, which thankfully had no impact against the strength of the titanium ship.
Clint, Margo, and the rest of the crew would die from malnutrition before allowing those zombies to feast on them. Tiring of hammering away from these lifeless forms, Clint turned toward his crew.
“Okay, people, we had our fun. It’s about time we start to have a plan that can work to kill those bastards out there once and for all.”
Turning to his left he said, “Dale, you’re the mechanic, so I need to know a few things. One, how much fuel is still intact with Star Ride and second, can you create flame throwers?”
“Never made a flame thrower before but I’m sure I can put something together along that line that would work, similar to a handgun, only larger. I just checked the fuel earlier this morning, and we have about thirteen-thousand gallons left in the jettison cargo hold, and another four thousand in reserve, in part to when we loaded up at the space station.”
“I can help you with that, Dale.” Brad spoke out. “When I was in the military, flame throwers were one of my specialties. Since I can kiss my retirement goodbye, might as well use the time I have for something good.”
“This is good, you two." Clint smiled. "You might want to get started now. We need one made for each of us, as well as twin tanks we can carry like a backpack with fuel as a backup."
"Margo, since you are the athlete among us, I think this would be a good time to start teaching all of us different ways to defend ourselves against those dead pricks out there."
Clint suggested next. "Jules, you don’t have combat experience, do you?”
“Not a lick, Clint. I was born between wars and was never called to duty. My time, or I should say, the only fighting I have ever done, is uncovering an artifact below the ground.”
“Oh, I am so going to love this shit!” laughed Margo. “I know so many ways to take an opponent down, it’s unreal. Within a week Jules, you’ll be ready to start kicking ass without sweating the names. Might as well get this started right now!”
Outside, the hammering against Star Ride only intensified, but it did them no good. As everyone was doing what was assigned, Clint went back to the radio.
“This is Commander Clint Raymond, Captain of the U.S. Star Ride. If there is anyone out there receiving this message, please acknowledge. I repeat, please acknowledge.”
Other than static interference, he heard nothing. He kept at it about hour before he decided to walk away to check for any progress with Dale and Brad. Less than twenty feet away he heard the words— “come back.”
Stopping in mid-step for half a second, he raced back to the radio.
“Yes! This is Captain Clint Raymond. Who is this and where are you?”
“You won’t believe this, but this is Phil, buddy. Good to hear your voice. Are your wife and kids with you since your return to Earth?”
Clint was overjoyed that his best friend Phil was still alive, but he went on to explain what happened at the space station.
“Dammit! I am so sorry for you, Clint. That should never have happened at all. Not like that, but when this zombie thing got out of hand, we weren’t able to get any crew members safely out to launch pads to get back there to relieve anyone any longer. Right now, I’m in Phoenix, with about thirty-five thousand troops and a hundred fighter jets. Jets are sent out daily to strafe the zombies until we know for sure they won’t get back up again and keep doing what they do. The bad news ... this is all that is left of our military. Everything else has been compromised."
“However, this may be good news for you. Andy and Zach, along with Carla’s parents, are safe with us. Your parents though.... We couldn’t get to them in time. You can tell the rest of your team; their families are safe with us. Beyond them, we have about another forty-thousand civilians, some of which are in military training.”
Tears formed lines down Clint’s face hearing this. “That is good news, Phil. Give them my love and … and … do the best you can to break the news to them about Carla and Maria for me.”
“No problem, Clint.” “We are working out a defense system here in the meantime, Phil. Making something similar to flame throwers so everyone here has one and honing our fighting skills. But I need to know—what stands between you and us?”
“About twenty million dead people walking around hungry as hell. And right now, with you at Mission Control, this puts you about twelve-hundred miles from us. I can have five of our jets come in and grab each one of you to get back here, but it will have to be quick. The way they clamor together, you might be lucky to have a one-minute open window of time to get onto the jet and back here. One slip, one fall, and it’s over.”
“I get it, Phil. Get back to me with the ETA and I’ll inform the crew meantime.”
“I can let you know within twenty-four.”
“Twenty-four minutes would be better, but we’ll take what we can get, Phil. Over and out.”
Clint, somewhat relieved to know that he and his crew weren’t alone, went to check on Dale and Brad. But he was even more relieved to know his boys were alive.
“Hey, Clint,” said Brad. “We’re working to piece something together along the lines of that flame laser Dale put together before, but with more power and a wider area to spread the flames once we engage the trigger, probably as much as a fifty-foot area.”
“Sounds good to me. Now here is the deal, you need to have them ready to go in the next twenty-four hours.
“Twenty-four … you can’t be serious!" Dale exclaimed. However, the look on Clint’s face told him he was indeed serious.
Then Clint told them that help was on the way, and later he would tell Margo and Jules the same thing. One shot was all they had to get to a safe haven. There would be no second chance.
Part II: Another Plan
Miles away from Star Ride, a female corpse opened her eyes. She found herself in a pile of corpses, disgusted by the smell. She did a once over of her body, which was unrecognizable after the undead had snacked on her and Darryl.
"Darryl? Where is Darryl?" The corpse yelled in a sudden panic.
The corpse gasped, shocked that she was able to somehow speak clearly. Once the shock wore off, she tried to collect her thoughts further. She remembered that her name was Elena, at least that was what she went by when she was alive. She questioned how she could still be alive, with her internal organs hanging outside of her decaying body, and the stiff cold feeling she felt when touching her skin. She checked for a pulse on what was left of her neck and found none. She had to be dead, just like all the other bodies she was sprawled on top of. Yet, she could think, she felt aware, she had memories flooding back.... memories of being exiled from the safety of the Star Ride.... her and Darryl. She had no idea what became of Darryl after they were swiftly attacked.... but she was still alive if you could call it that, while also being very dead too.
Elena stood up and clumsily began moving away from the pile of corpses. She would seek Darryl, as well as find out why she hadn't met the same fate as the other undead. Before she could get too far, she heard a moaning behind her. She turned around to see another corpse approaching her quickly. It seemed just like all the rest out there, as in not an intelligent dead being like herself, but another mindless, murderous flesh-eating machine. Without thinking about it, Elena instinctively put her hands out as if she were going to push her would be attacker away and yelled "Stop!"
The zombie stood still, looking to her for another command. Elena stood puzzled for a moment, then decided to try something else.
"Dance like a chicken!" Elena shouted, not expecting her ridiculous request to be answered. But the zombie did just that.
"Eat one of the bodies in that pile."
The zombie went back to the pile of bodies and began devouring the one on top. After finishing the meal, the zombie returned to Elena to await her next directive.
"Bow before me."
The zombie bowed low before Elena. A wicked smile formed on what was left of her face. She was undead, yet aware of everything, and even able to still speak and think. Not only that, but she apparently had the ability to control members of the undead by commanding them. She seems to be an alpha, and with this latest turn of events, she could not only keep herself as safe as it was possible for someone that was dead, but she could also use her newfound gift to shape what was left of the world however she wanted to. She thought about the crew of the Star Ride and laughed about the regrets they would feel for sending her to die in the wild. With her death a new life had come, a life that would usher in a new world, a world that had no place for those that foolishly sealed their fate by banishing her from their temporary safety. Even with a lifeless tongue, Elena thought about how her revenge would taste oh so sweet....
Written By: Roses311Sublime
Chapter Six: Survival
They sat on their seats, all five of them, waiting for the ferry to take them home. A thousand hands scratched their spaceship, fresh blood splattering every second on the glass windows. Clint’s eyes widened as he saw little objects flying in the skies. Five jets were approaching them. Their savior had finally arrived.
Clint clapped his hands “All set?” His fellow troopers lifted their thumbs up, two of them nodding their heads. He gesticulated something to Jules, and he winked back. Clint could see clear nervousness in Dale’s eyes, but he would make it; that was sure. Their spaceship’s roof opened slowly as the sun’s scorching rays poured in. A little ladder extended to the ground as Dale climbed on it, his body working agile. Before the zombie beings could process what was happening, he had raced to his jet.
Margo went up next, fast, and sure footed as the next jet opened its door for her. A few got hold of her arms, trying to devour it, but the thick fabric that covered her gave no purchase. Jules climbed right behind her, rubbing the sweat on his forehead with a wet handkerchief as a hundred bodies started climbing over the rooftop. Jules gasped, stamping on their fingers with his thick shoes and caught hold of the sliding door.
Climbing in, he pulled the trigger of his laser gun as fifty creatures curled back like a tortoise into its shell. But that lasted no longer than three seconds. When the next jet dropped to pick Brad up, a thousand living corpses had climbed on the rooftop like an army of deadly tarantulas.
Normally when there was a loud sound or huge explosion, mortal souls stayed away from it. But this was just the obverse.
Brad hurried, galloping over their heads when an orange haired man with bloodshot eyes got hold of his backpack and pulled him down.
“Shit!” He muttered under his breath, thrusting his hands on the corpses undead when another woman with long bloody nails choke-slammed him down. These are the soldiers and athletes America wants. Brad’s thoughts surrounded him, only to be woken up by the sound of gunshots that came from underneath. Clint was shooting bullets from inside, clearing the way and getting on top of the spaceship. He hauled Brad back up to his feet, his fingers never restraining to press the button of the skillful laser gun.
The old man stumbled as he walked his way into the jet when a little boy of barely twelve pulled his left foot. His fingers clenched tightly around his white boots and in seconds his teeth had prodded in. Brad’s face went red as he jerked away, reaching for the jet’s door, pulling the boy along, who was getting ready to take his next bite. With the little knife he held in his pocket, Brad cut his foot altogether, right above his ankle as his ragged breath started to sound moribund and waning.
“What the hell, Brad!” Clint shouted, only to be answered by the tight shut of the sliding door. The jet took off, carrying a single-footed Brad Marconi as the final vehicle of hope came to pick up the last one alive. A thousand hungry beasts had gathered all around him, ready to tear him in shreds. Many had started climbing on the jet, banging on to its inky metal surface.
“A perfect checkmate,” Clint mumbled, rotating himself around, shooting with his gun as he moved, only to see a hundred zombies curl back and somersault into thousands. He slid his hand in his pocket, the other hand busy playing the game of life or death when something collided with his fingernails. It was Margo’s micro-Bluetooth speaker she had left back in Starship. She always listened to senseless twiddles where people spat out fifteen words per second and claimed them to be beautiful songs of mumble-rap.
His eyebrows twitched in irritation, and he tossed it towards the real banshees, still shooting with his gun. The switch had somehow flicked on and the voice of some man who had some problems with constipation started blurting out words fast and loud enough to make one go mad and damage one’s eardrums. At that very moment, all those nasty creatures left Clint in the corner and had started towards the speaker like menacing mad monkeys fighting for the last mango. Before their hands could take hold of the speaker and accidentally press the “off” button, Clint had raced into his jet and the door had shut automatically behind him.
He put on his seatbelt, breathing through his mouth gasping for breath. Closing his eyes shut he leaned his head on the glass window which the zombies were scratching with their jagged crooked nails. He could hear the pilot passing a radio message that Captain Raymond was safe and on his way. Glitching images of Carla and the little girl he never knew flew past his mind, breaking to dust and all he could perceive was her laughter calling on to him.
Elysée Palace, France
Flakes of grey ashes lay cold in stacks on the porcelain ashtray. He opened a new flip-flop box and picked out a fresh cigarette, placing it carefully between his dark dry lips. A frail old man dressed in a pristine white coat sewn with perfect golden buttons stood near him, his thumb pressing the lighter. He inhaled deeply as the sparks of fire hit the paper roll, hoping the nicotine would calm his rattling nerves. His dark eyes stared from behind the frameless glasses at the grey smoke that grew taller, twirling into a fine line and drowning the room once again in the nauseating smell of carcinogenic stench.
A nimble young man with long brown hair entered the room, his cleft chin nestled in his thorax, fingers busy fiddling with a bunch of papers and a portfolio. His soles had barely stopped making noise when a gruff voice coughed as if trying to show some signs of its existence.
“Bonjour, Mr. President,” he said, his stare fixed on the silver brooch pinned to his pocket, making sure their eyes never met. He mouthed back the long dead greeting of acknowledgement, taking another deep drag, and channelizing the smoke to escape from his nostrils in two different directions.
“We got to know that the number of casualties in the United States have increased rapidly to almost seven million, leaving only a quarter of their total popul—” André’s words were cut sharp by the president’s gruff voice who interrupted, casually puffing his cigarette.
“Why, are we talking about the United States, Doctor Laurent?” His crooked black eyes stared discreetly into those auburn ones.
“They have it,” his sockets jerked as he tried to stare back. “Fighter jets.”
Those dark eyes quickly widened in genuine surprise as his lips moved to utter words of “how many” and his fingers spread out, making impulsive gestures.
“Hundreds of them,” André said, almost whispering, his face beaming slightly.
Following a violent cough, his voice steadied again. “Why didn’t anybody tell me that our feud with the United States had died?” He wore back his usual expression, placing the half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray and pushed it with his fingers as it rolled to join its kin.
André detested himself for being so under a person’s thumb. He knew very well that someday, he was going to burst out, but he never anticipated it to be that day. “Mr. President, our only foe right now is this virus and its prisoners. This, you know, will mark the end of our race if humankind does not unite. We are never going to win if we gouge out old problems and make new enemies. Mr. President, this is no war of man-against-man. You can’t just sit there with your dead eyes, watching the world die, waiting for death to jab its fangs at you. Do something!”
He exploded, not realizing how loud he was and that he was slamming his fist on the antique glass table, shaking the ashtray and the little golden tumbler near it.
Charles was calm as always, observing his lead scientist closely, admiring his speaking skills. These young men, he thought, they talk like they have brains all over their body and that everyone else is a dumb doornail. The old servant pulled the chair back as he rose from his seat. He turned left, walking slowly, heading for his chamber.
“Any lead on the Russian case?” he asked, not turning back.
“We’re still working on it,” André sighed, adjusting his glasses, followed by a pause, “Mr. President.”
The leather boots stopped moving, making way for Charles’ voice.
“Perhaps you should send a message to the United States,” he said, his hands around the doorknob.
“That we need their help?” André asked, his voice suddenly transforming from anger to rude to excitement.
“That we are ready to help them.”
Chapter 7: Dismembered Hopes
"What in the hell did you think you were doing old man? You don't lop off a perfectly good foot just because a zombie takes a nibble out of it." Margo chastised Brad, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be a comforting presence as the Phoenix Military Base doctor cleaned up his wound. Jules stood silently by the stretcher and observed with a scientific but kind detachment.
"No, what you don't do is abandon a perfectly good ship." Dale piped up, seeing Marconi's pain-sickened expression, and resolving to change the topic. "Best ship I ever worked on; Star Ride was," his eyes glossed over lovingly. "You know, all she needs is a new on-board electro-navigation patch, a little spit and polish, and she'll be good as new."
Margo raised an eyebrow at him questioningly. "Spit and polish will hardly be enough to hammer out all the dents made by that hoard of undead. When we took off, I literally couldn't see a scrap of hull; the whole ship was covered knee-deep in a hulking mound of putrid flesh and guts." She shuddered a little to emphasize what a disgusting job it would be to clean up.
Brad smiled groggily and promptly lost consciousness.
"Morphine’s kicking in" the doctor explained calmly, ignoring their conversation.
A few rooms over …
Clint shook Phil's hand vigorously and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Steady on, whippersnapper, I'm not as spry as I used to be." Phil joked, a big grin plastering both faces.
"You sure are a sight for sore eyes, and a welcome sight at that, Phil." Clint glanced around expectantly at the line of soldiers and officials in the small conference room, "Where are Zach and Andy?"
Phil hesitated before indicating with a comforting facial expression that there was nothing to worry about. "I'm sorry for the timing of it old friend. Your boys have gone out on a recon mission. You saw the wall, right?"
Clint nodded, successfully hiding the nervous feeling which punched him in the guts at Phil's moment of hesitation. The 10-ft high wall surrounding the whole Valley of the Sun seemed to be made of thick concrete blocks held together with some sort of innovative resin. He was impressed while flying over it.
Phil continued proudly: "So far; eighteen months and no breaches. But now the engineers are getting nervous. There have been recent observations made by some of the scout flyers that zombies are congregating just north of here, in the middle of the snow-covered desert about eight miles out from the wall, with no targets nearby other than an abandoned bunker. One of the scouts thought they might be digging. Obviously if they stop eating each other and start working as a team it implies that they're capable of organization, which further implies rough times ahead. More likely they're being attracted by some sounds or vibrations, seismic activity maybe, but it's all very strange. Andy and Zach are one of our best pilot/gunner teams, so they've been sent over there with a couple of others to see what's what. It shouldn't amount to any confrontation, don't worry. Their orders are simply to observe and report back."
"I hope so. It'd be yet another cruel twist of fate if, right when I got here...." Clint trailed off, unwilling to give his fears credence by putting them into words. "Anyway, I'm grateful that anyone is still alive on this hell-hole of a planet, I was beginning to think we were the last ones."
Phil's expression became even more encouraging and sympathetic. "Well, no time to catch up properly just yet." he apologized, "Consider yourself debriefed. I have to get back to communications. We just got a communique from the president of France if you can believe it. They're saying they're willing to help us out, but clearly, they're going to want something in return... Anyway, Kurt here will lead the way to the infirmary so you can meet up with the rest of your crew, then show you all to your rooms." Phil turned and nodded at a soldier who stepped forward and saluted.
We've already been here in the Valley for three weeks. Hard to believe...
The Valley of the Sun is still aptly named. The city is covered by a weather-control station the likes of which I've never seen. When it was constructed, it was used to cool the place down before the global weather went to shit. Now it's our main source of heat in this endless desert of snow. The city really is an oasis. I will admit, I like being able to walk around in regular clothes without the need to be constantly clad in a spacesuit. But all that creature comfort changes today. They've issued us each one of their custom flight-suits. These things are less clunky than our E.M.U.'s at least. They're also thermally regulated and supposedly ... bulletproof. I have an inkling that we'll soon get to see if they're zombie-proof as well.
It feels almost good to be getting back in the action again. I guess I'm just loony like that; can't stand staying put. I never could. I feel bad for Clint though. His two sons have been M.I.A since we got here. That man's bad luck is ridiculous. The very day he was set to meet his sons, his only family who he hadn't seen in years, and they were taken from him again, just like his wife, and the daughter he never got the chance to meet. Well, I reckon he's had enough of fate's whims. We're going to make our own for him from here on out. Dale and I are going up with him and three of the Phoenix MB soldiers on a rescue mission. The fighter-jet which was carrying Andy and Zach has been spotted wrecked a dozen klicks north of here, near a huge pile of unmoving carcasses. Our plan is to set down near the wreckage and investigate the site. We're holding onto a little hope that someone made it out alive and is holing up in the bunker nearby.
Jules is staying here with Brad; he's worried that Marconi's leg stump isn't healing quite right, and the doctors here don't seem to give a damn. Come to think of it, no-one here does, not even Phil. Clint is furious that it took this long to get the rescue mission organized, and I don't blame him. I don't trust the people here; something seems off about them. I'm probably speaking too soon. Could be all that time in space made me a little lone-happy. I mean, heaven knows I've never exactly been a social butterfly, but still, there's this look they get sometimes, a blank expression, faraway, and sort of ...hungry...
Ugh, enough of this crazy talk. Time to suit up and dive back into hell.
Margo Jessup, signing off.
"No... please... no... damn it!" Clint sobbed as he pulled Margo's body from the wreckage. Uncharacteristic tears started welling in his usually calm eyes as he saw the severe angle of her neck and realized she wasn't breathing. He checked her pulse to be sure, then choked down his anguish and looked up at Dale questioningly, "Are we the only survivors? What in the hell hit us? Did you see? How did we crash?"
Dale nodded in response to the first question, desperation lining his gaze as he scrambled for some semblance of sanity amidst the overwhelming horror, finally answering pallidly: "I could see from my position in the cockpit. There were frozen body parts being catapulted at us, from there." He pointed at the huge mound of carcasses a stones-throw from the bunker entrance. There seemed to be a makeshift gravity-manipulation-device set up next to the pile. A reloading-conveyor-belt was depositing the corpse-ammunition into a receptacle which was set even now to launch more gruesome ballistics at any aerial targets which happened to fly too close. Zach and Andy's ship had undoubtedly suffered the same fate; they could see the bloody spectacle of entrail-lined hull just past their own crashed vessel.
Just then, a feedback-screech from an old-style speaker squealed over the devastated silence, and a voice was heard clearly stating a simple order:
At the voice's command, the pile of corpses became animated, writhing and reaching to grasp and engorge themselves on anything they could touch. The dead MB soldiers also obeyed the command; stumbling over their own broken bones and crawling out of the wreckage through the melting blood-slushed snow to devour their comrades.
Clint and Dale locked shocked eyes as they lit their flame-lasers. That voice over the speaker. They both recognized it...
"Mycrovitch," they hissed in unison as they began burning back the scourge, both brains working overdrive to register the auditory information as fact.
Dale sensed movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his terror-stricken face behind them. Margo's body was moving as well. Shakily he turned his weapon, pointing it at her struggling form. There was a gurgling crunch as the body's broken neck was pushed back into place with its battered hands. Then fear flashed across the dead eyes as they saw the weapon pointed between them. Dale's finger started squeezing the trigger.
"Sorry Margo" he whispered.
"W-waaait." the figure rasped.
Written By; EstherFlowers1
Chapter 8: Within Walls
Phoenix Air Base - USA
The makeshift conference hall descended into yet another awkward stillness, following the hour-long scientific exposition by Dr Elizabeth Harlem for the eighteenth time this month. From the very day the military boys spotted her out on the barren wasteland, her life switched into a wildly different sort of turmoil than the one outside. The high-stakes rescue operation of one of the world's best virologists had to be chaperoned with soaring expectations. A cure for the incurable virus, to quote the exact words of General Phil Klezmer.
But out of all the presentations she delivered, this one stood different. Not because of her poor presentation skills somehow obtaining a professional steadiness and stature suddenly, but for the man who listened to her words-- Mr. Dale Caruthers.
Dale was a senior in the university Elizabeth did her graduation in. Their fields and interests were as different as a dry desert could be from a fresh waterfall, but what was meant to happen had to happen. Fate brought the two together on a group project, and soon, the hot athletic Astrophysics dude, was passionately in love with the brilliant, beautiful genius from Virology. The news spread like wildfire throughout the university, but as time went on, the two had to diverge ways, knowing one staying with another could only shatter their dreams. A mutual agreement made of love so that their loved one could achieve their best.
But here they were, time playing its games again.
"So, Lizzie, what you're saying is that we need a zombie—alive?" Dale concluded on a confusing note, not solely because he was confounded whether zombies were alive or not, but also how they were supposed to apprehend and contain one of them. At first, it was almost impossible to kill one of these, and now they are evolving and hunting in packs. It would be a suicide mission to venture outside the walls and capture one among them. But Elizabeth was right … she always was. If they were to find an antidote for the whole zombification stuff, one of the first things they needed was a zombie. To test things on, to know whether it will work the way they want to. But how?
"Yeah, you're right, Mr. Caruthers. We need one. Alive." Elizabeth's response made Dale realize that years had passed since they passed uni. Mr. Caruthers, that's how Lizzie wanted to address him. Not even Dale, not her unique, sweetest variation of the term 'darling', but Mr. Caruthers.
But forgotten in the lost memories that soared across the silent chamber was another man who survived the horrors humanity always had coming.
Brad Marconi remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the entire session. He couldn't survive a day without someone appreciating how sarcastic he was, and his silence went unnoticed on a day when all that noticeable was love. But there was also something eerie to his quietness that the conflicted lovers in the room failed to see.
A low grunt was how it began. Brad fell off his seat, sinking his fingers deep into the concrete. He tried his best to remain calm, but a piercing headache was all he could feel. Like sharp needles prodding every inch of his skull, he screamed in pain, which grew crisper and crisper with every moment. His vision blurred. A shining light enough to send him into a seizure overthrew the dim, melancholic lighting of the hall. Teeth clenched, nails digging into the rugged floor—it didn't take them long to realize they were in trouble.
"Brad, are you okay?" Dale slowly sauntered towards Elizabeth, standing between her and his old friend. He was no longer a friend, he knew that within his logic, but his heart told him otherwise, "Brad, look at me." But it was too late. Brad Marconi was only a shadow, deep inside a carnivore, if not lost forever. Dale placed his hands on the holster, sensing the gun inside, preparing for the worst case. There was only one way out of the hall, and it wasn't an easy one. If there was any way he could contain his old friend within the makeshift chamber and defend his old lover until they escape the room, he would have done that. But when Brad looked straight into his eyes—when the monster looked straight into his eyes, he knew it was hopeless.
His movements had to be quick. Dale clutched the hands of his old lover, shaking her out of the stillness that took over her. The moment Brad leapt at them from the top of the table, Dale took his gun outside the holster and squeezed the trigger as tight as he could. But the firearm hesitated to let out its true might, forcing Dale to push Elizabeth aside towards the door, and engage in hand-to-hand combat with the beast. He lunged the monster away with his elbows, added with a kick to the thighs to send him further away from the two of them.
Before Dale could retain his fighting stance, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulders. Canines sank deep into his flesh, almost scratching against his bones. He yelled in anguish and threw a punch to its right chin, sending it crashing against the whiteboard that Elizabeth used until then.
If the creature were to rebound one last time into a fistfight, that would have marked the end of life within the walls. But Elizabeth got hold of the firearm, which had slipped past the chairs, and reloaded it yet another time. This time, whatever Brad had transformed into did not stand a chance. The fire scorched him to the very core, not leaving an inch of his body free. It was rage that took the form of fire from Elizabeth's palms. After all, love knew no bounds from the day it crashed on the shores of societal life. Murder was the least of crimes committed in the name of love.
As the burning monster crashed against the floor on the other end of the room, Lizzie threw the gun away, raising Dale from the ground. She clasped him around the hips to ensure he wasn't harmed when she shouldered him out of the room. Though the bite hurt him with such vehemence, Caruthers felt good holding her tight like the old days, "I got your zombie for you. That wasn't so hard, was it?" He gave her a slight smile despite the pain, trying his best to extract that precious pleasantness from her facade that he hadn't seen for long. God, she is still beautiful.
Elysée Palace: France
No matter how many times Andre cracked and popped his neck, the soreness remained, unwilling to leave him at ease. For the past few weeks, his sleep schedule had been messed up, and everything was going south in a hurry. He was in desperate need of a break, but the horrendous circumstances barely left him any space to breathe. Nothing is ever going to be the same.
But at the very least, the narcissist has shown slight symptoms of letting down his humongous ego. There was absolutely no way the presidential house could keep the mindless creatures at bay all on its own. The helpless soldiers lay down their lives every day, listening to the mad ramblings of an old man. Antoine Quessmann was never a good President, but the apocalyptic event had driven him even more nuts. If they were all going to die any sooner than they were supposed to, there would only be one person to blame.
Peace of mind-- Andre whispered as he turned the doorknobs to the top-floor guest room.
Although it took a great deal of patience and immense self-control to serve under an ignorant psychopath, it left Andre with the luxury of a furnished chamber and ample sustenance while hundreds roamed the streets in terror. Humankind after all, has always wanted a place to return to. Something to call their own, somewhere to belong.
The guest room wasn't his home, essentially ... but it played out all the necessary functions: a place to stay, relax and sleep, though the latter procedures weren't at their best.
"Hey, big belly! Having fun?" He spoke while turning to the couch as he tossed his official coat and ID onto the mattress. He had always loved taunting her from the very night they met each other. It wasn't a Christmas night or a Halloween, but only the tiresome evening of a regular workday. But love crept its way in, and destiny converged the two together in the grand calculus of the universe. They were often misunderstood as a duo of mischievous siblings rather than a bickering couple. But their senseless squabbles only bound them together even more, never even leaving a crack in their unbreakable bond.
"Dinner outside?" Andre smirked as he searched through the contents of his shoulder bag, "Honey, haven't you heard the news yet? Turns out, zombies are roaming the streets. If anything's getting served out there, it's us." He giggled at the uncomfortable joke, picking up the reports on the Phoenix Camp and walking off to the fridge. A ton of files to study overnight diminished his morale in a split-second, but the notion of having her by his side eased his conscious a little. "Sweetie, you can't skip your dinners every day." He spoke as he carried the supplies for the night to the dining room.
"Come on now, don't be lazy. We can't teach our offspring bad manners, remember?" He spoke into the darkness of the empty cabin. After all, how could a couple of framed photographs react to all his little quips like his lost beloved?
Outside Phoenix Camp Wall: USA
"To the barracks." Margo roared, her voice crisp and scary. They had run so far, and yet, a single misstep would have left them meals for the undead. The barracks were the only spot that could protect them from the massive, bloodthirsty cluster. It was only a few meters ahead of them, but Clint and Jules could already feel their legs failing them. The shock of the plane crashing down into the woods, the notion of Elena possessing a zombie legion … it was too much for them to handle. And Margo being able to wade and rescue them from a giant gathering of the mindless, while being one among them, was a fact they did not know whether to be scared or comforted about.
"Why don't these things walk funny?" It was Jules who raised his concern. Obviously, the lies that the popular media speculate about the events that are yet to happen and even the ones that had happened often confuse the regular viewers into doubting their surrounding reality. As the trio darted further into the woods, they spotted the metallic door, able to save their lives. The distance between the footsteps grew wider and wider until a point they were almost hurdling their way through the rugged earth. The flesh-eating mindless beasts almost grabbed them by their clothes and pushed them back into the mushy dirt land many times, but life gave them another chance.
"Close the doors!" Clint screamed as he barely made it inside the barracks. Jules and Jessup were already inside, both being comparatively better athletes than Clint ever was. A severed hand joined the three behind the sealed doors.
"You can't be right. Phil would never do that. He can't." Clint almost protested within the darkness and emptiness that surrounded them. He was sure Phil could never do that. A biological weapon? Warfare?
Domination? That can never be what Phil stands for. At least, not the Phil he knew. He could never do that!
But Margo's face remained intact. She led them down the sealed doors through the darkness, careful with each step of hers. Any of these hallways could hide one of the undead, and she wasn't ready to take the chance. Her conscience remaining without flaws wasn't something on which she could solely rely. If it ever affected one of her two accomplices, that could only end up with her having to kill them. And she wasn't prepared to lose another.
She ceased and shifted towards the two in front of another sealed door, "You don't have to believe me, Clint, but you will have to believe them. In fact, I'm quite sure you will be convinced without even a trace of doubt the moment I open these doors." And he was. How could he not believe his own blood? It was all he wished to see from the very moment he returned to this godforsaken planet. He embraced both of his sons tightly within his arms, not willing to let go yet another time. But he couldn't help but think, who are we even fighting against anymore?
Written By: Chaco_Stephen
Chapter 9 - Zombie Queen Showdown: Margo Jessup vs Elana Mycrovitch
Captain Clint Raymond sat hunched over on the floor, his head supported by his hands. He was grateful for his son's safety now, but also felt spent from all that was happening. His mind reeled over Margo's reveal of Phil's plans. He had a tough time believing that Phil was capable of the evil Margo warned about. He wondered if Margo's undead makeover could have altered her mind, and all of this was a trap on her part. But despite her zombified changes, she still was the genuine article. Then there was the issue of Elana Mycrovitch, who should be dead. Well, she was very dead, but thanks to her new zombified status, with abilities to command an undead army to boot, she also posed as a major obstacle for survival. The only bright spot was that Phil and Elana didn't appear to be in cahoots per Margo's intel.
A loud clang and footsteps down the hall brought Clint out of his ponderings and back into the moment. Clint stood up, prepared to defend his sons and comrades if it was the last thing he did. Margo and Jules also stood at the ready, Jules ready to utilize some of the combat training he was able to glean from Margo before she was turned.
A decaying man who looked much like the other monsters outside stumbled into the room. He held an electronic PDA in his hand and looked up at the five with lifeless eyes.
"Dr. Addams?" Jules exclaimed. "Should have known if Mycrovitch was behind this, you wouldn't be far behind!"
Darryl said nothing and gave no reaction, leading the party to believe that he wasn't a conscious undead like Margo and Elana. He simply held up the PDA for them to see, and the screen flicked on, revealing Elana sitting on a pile of bones.
"You know, when the zombies were attacking me, I thought the survival pistol from my grandfather was unlucky, but it turns out that wasn't the case. Thanks to your attempt to get rid of us, I am now more powerful than ever!"
"Good for you Elana, you've gone from brilliant scientist to comic book supervillain!" Margo responded sarcastically. "Did you send Darryl here to do your dirty work, just like before? Even with your power, you're still pathetic!"
Despite his stress, Clint couldn't help but smile at his scrappy zombie ally. Remembering Margo's wrestling days, he had a feeling she could still hold her own, even with a decaying body.
"On the contrary Jessup. I sent my stooge here to propose a challenge. You're a conscious undead, as am I. You led these weaklings to safety before my hoard could do to them what they did to me and Darryl. As long as you are in the picture, my plans for this world won't come to fruition. So, I think we should meet up for what they would call in ancient times, a duel. Winner takes all, survivor becomes the leader of the undead!"
"Bitch please, I know this is a trap to get us back outside. You don't want to challenge me, the second we get out there you'll sic your hoard on us again."
"On the contrary." Elana laughed playfully with a sinister undertone. "I didn't think I would ever meet another conscious zombie, and I definitely never expected it would be you. A brilliant teacher, archaeologist, and strong fighter like you? Putting you down would cement my place as the queen, and I want to do this fair and square. Besides, I managed to slip Darryl in there. Do you really think you, or Clint's sons for that matter, are safe?"
"As much as I hate to say it, she's right Margo." Clint conceded. "I hate to put it on you, but can I ask you to kick her ass for us?"
"Are you kidding, I didn't even like her when we were alive!" Margo laughed. "I would be happy to shut her mouth permanently!"
"Splendid!" Elana squealed. "Darryl will safely lead you and your friends to the location of our duel. I promise no cheap tricks on route. Trust me Jessup, I can't wait to personally kill you and prove that I am the better zombie."
Darryl led Clint, his sons, Jules, and Margo through the zombie hoard to a dilapidated, abandoned office building. Elana wore a yellow and red dress and smiled a sadistic grin at the party.
"Welcome Jessup, I'm glad you had the guts to make it! I mean, I guess that's obvious, with our guts being visible and all."
"Spare the pleasantries Mycrovitch, what is your game here?" Margo replied warily.
"The only game is to prove that I'm better than you. Of course, once you're disposed of, your allies here will be easy prey, so they are the prize that I'll accept. Not that you're going to win, but what would you claim if you had a choice?"
"This world is a shit show, but you no longer being part of it would make it a little less terrible." Margo answered. "Of course, being able to personally put you in your place will be nice too."
"Then let's begin!" Elana yelled, charging towards Margo. Margo stepped to the side as Elana got close, grabbing her arm, and flipping her face first onto the floor. Elana rolled over and pulled herself up, grinning.
"That's the spirit, this is going to be fun!"
Elana lunged at Margo again, this time being stopped with a fist to the face. Elana kicked Margo in the chest, causing her to briefly double over. Margo then slammed her head into Elana's, pushing her back. She then struck Elana's head again with a roundhouse kick, knocking her back down to the floor once again.
"I was a champion wrestler, and I've still got it." Margo stated, standing over her zombie rival. "You're out of your league here Elana. Give up now and maybe I'll let you go."
Despite not being on her feet, Elana laughed maniacally.
"You may be stronger physically, but can your mind compete with mine? Darryl, go eat Captain Raymond's sons!"
"No!" Margo screamed, running after Darryl. Before she could grab him, Darryl backhanded her, knocking her to the floor.
"Ha ha ha ha, so the champion wrestler can't stop my minion. Tough break Margo dear!"
Darryl froze in place, then turned to Margo for his next instruction.
"What? You can control them too?" Elana screamed in shock.
"I guess so." Margo shrugged. "Never tried it to be honest."
"You bitch! Darryl, go rip Jessup's head off!"
Darryl began approaching Margo with malice in his eyes.
"Darryl, go rip Elana's stupid hair out!"
Darryl turned around and began approaching Elana to give her a haircut through unorthodox methods.
"Darryl, freeze!" Margo yelled once more.
Elana looked at Margo with a puzzled look.
"Why stop him Jessup? What are you up to now?"
"Apparently Darryl responds to both of us equally. If we keep going at this rate, this will never end. I may be dead, but I have better things to do than continue this pissing contest with you."
"Hmph, so that's how you view our duel, eh? OK Jessup, what are you suggesting?"
"A final, decisive maneuver. We give Darryl a weapon that could destroy both of us, and we stand on opposite sides of him. We order him to attack at the same time, and whoever he strikes loses. You like duels Mycrovitch, think of it like an apocalyptic quick draw finale!"
"Oooooh, I like it!" Elana cackled. "Too bad I hate your visible guts, otherwise we may have worked well together in a different life. Let's finish this. In fact, I have just the firearm in mind. Darryl, get the flamethrower!"
Darryl walked off as Elana continued smiling sadistically. Jules, Clint, and his sons looked at Margo with concern.
"Are you sure about this Margo?" Clint asked his comrade. "Neither of you had an edge in controlling Darryl, and this could go either way."
"Trust me Captain, I've got this." Margo replied, flashing a reassuring smile.
Darryl returned with a flamethrower in tow, and Elana and Margo approached him until he stood a couple of feet between the pair.
"You're going to regret this Jessup. Darryl was my partner when we were alive. He will respond to me first, not you."
"Guess we'll know soon enough Mycrovitch." Margo answered, still smiling. "Jules, we'll have you count to three, then we will both give Darryl the order at the same time. Does that work for you Elana?"
"Absolutely. I can't wait to watch you burn."
"Is this really OK Captain?" Jules asked timidly.
"Whether we agree or not, this is their fight now." Clint said with a nervous, yet confident smile. "I trust Margo's judgment. Fulfill her request whenever you are ready."
"Very well." Jules conceded. "Alright.... one, two, three!"
"Darryl, light her up now!" Margo and Elana screamed.
Darryl turned to Elana and blasted her with the flamethrower. As the flames engulfed her body, she screamed to Margo once more, feeling no pain as the flames were melting her away to nothingness.
"I should have known that Darryl would betray me in the end. Well congratulations Jessup, you are the alpha now. But remember, we aren't the only conscious undead out there. Your position of power will be challenged at some point. The burden to defend the title of zombie queen is yours now. Enjoy!"
Elana laughed maniacally until nothing of her remained but a pile of ashes. Darryl turned to Margo, awaiting his next order.
"Give me the flamethrower Darryl, now."
Darryl gave Margo the flamethrower, which she then presented to Clint.
"He's all yours Captain. Vengeance for your family can be yours now."
"How did you know this would all work out Margo?"
"Well, the two of them didn't really seem to trust each other to begin with. I had a feeling that I had a sporting chance."
Margo released her control over Darryl as Clint aimed the flamethrower at him. Darryl fell to his knees and began begging for his undead life.
"I've done terrible things I know, but please have mercy!" Darryl cried.
"I want to do the right thing and help you guys now, please let me do that for you!"
Meanwhile, in the Phoenix Air Base Hospital
Dale Caruthers continued resting, the bite wound from his zombified comrade Brad Marconi still looking gruesome. He still felt like himself at least. Brad's body was taken to a different section of the hospital, also being treated. Dale hoped for Brad's survival, even if he wasn't himself anymore. Lizzie needed a live zombie to generate the cure, and if what was left of Brad didn't make it, they were back to square one.
Coincidentally, Dr. Harlem ran to Dale's side a moment later.
"Dale, how are you? Please tell me if you're still, OK?"
"You called me Dale this time." Dale grinned. "Never been better Lizzie. This flesh wound looks worse than it actually is."
"I'm relieved to hear that." Lizzie said as tears rolled down her face. "I needed some good news today."
"Good news, what do you mean?" Dale asked with concern. "Lizzie, what happened?"
"We lost Mr. Marconi. He's gone.... truly gone."
Written By: Roses311Sublime