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Posted: 8/24/2010 7:20:06 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/22/2010 8:38:36 AM EDT by Usagi]
CHAPTER 1

Gordon and his wife, Bonnie, sat and enjoyed the sunset. The couple had been nearing retirement before the comet hit. Now they were forced to work again. They plowed the fields near their house every spring, and kept gardens and hunted their land, and the land around them for food. Occasionally they went to town. Only when they needed things. They knew there were small pockets of people left in town. Maybe a coupe dozen people in all had survived.

A couple dozen survivors out of a population of over 1 million. Not much, but that’s how things had played out. Sure, some places had one better. Not their area. The whole area had been filled with what Bonnie and Gordon Roberts had considered scum. Leeches of society, living off public assistance, dealing drugs, generally not being productive.

That’s why the Roberts’ had moved out of town proper and into the country nearby. They still were near their children, yet they did not have to put up with the corrupt politics and big-city crime of the place.

Then the comet had come.

People had been turned into monsters – biting everything in sight. The Roberts’ had fought off what had once been neighbors and friends. They had dispatched former police, firefighters, mailmen, farmers, and all sorts of folks. They hadn’t enjoyed it, but they had to do it. It was no different than shooting the coyotes or groundhogs. These things were destructive vermin.

Then they had seen the new breed. Outliners, though they didn’t learn that term until later, were even more menacing. But the Roberts’ had a solution. They had been avid sport shooters in a previous life. High Power competitions had taught Bonnie marksmanship, and helped Gordon maintain his. These days, marksmanship was a valuable commodity.

The Roberts’ had lost their children in the aftermath of it all. They had lost all their family that they knew of. The grief had been too much to bear at first. Then, as it always does, time had healed all wounds.

So now they lived simply. They lived off the land. They enjoyed each other’s company. They missed the things they used to know and do in life, but those things had been replaced with new things. But inside, Gordon knew a dark secret. He knew Bonnie knew it too, though neither spoke of it.

Gordon Roberts knew, at 61 years of age, he couldn’t support them forever. Bonnie was five years his senior, and was as wise as any he’d ever known. She had to know this, too. Gordon knew that long term, they would have to team up with other people. Younger people. People that would appreciate the wisdom he and Bonnie could bring to the table.

But Gordon was also a realist. He knew that in the world that now was, it was easy for man to turn evil, and be selfish. People like that would band together, too. He had to be cautious not to join people like this, as that would spell the end for he and his bride of thirty years.

So Gordon had begun looking for just the right kind of people. And he felt very strongly he might have found them. A younger family, with teenage boys, had been spotted in town. They seemed nice enough. The father’s discipline and leadership reminded him of a manliness not seen in a long time. He admired that, and this is why he figured this family to be a good choice.

He had seen another family, on the other side of town. This family was all women except for a young son. That would not have worked out so well. Not that Bonnie might have been jealous, though that was possible. No, he was concerned because Gordon knew he would be called on to provide for them all. Even if he wouldn’t be called on to provide for them all, he doubted that group of daughters could focus long enough to do what it took to survive. Gordon wondered how they had made it so long.

So Gordon relaxed, watching the sun set, and thought of his adventure in store tomorrow. He would go and watch the family he had been watching. Tomorrow would be the day they would go hunting. They did so twice a week – on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Friday morning came and Gordon was up before dawn. He knew he had to be ready because the family he was watching was rarely late. Bonnie would be staying home today, getting some things done around the house. He carried an AR15, in the old retro style, as well as a few things that would make his day go by easier.

Gordon drove to the location he always went when spying on this family – just out of plain eyesight and up the hill from where they lived. After the comet strike, they had moved in to this house. Probably because it was larger and offered them more room.

Gordon reflected on his life to this point. A Marine in the waning days of Viet Nam, he had seen plenty of real action. Life had been much simpler once he went back to being a civilian. Then the comet hit, and life got complicated again.

––-

In the early days, Gordon and Bonnie suspected things were wrong, but with all the rain, they did not leave the house, and could not confirm their suspicions. Low lying areas flooded and the rains kept coming. Then other places flooded. And rains kept up. Power had been out, and phones had been out, and life had pretty much returned to the same as 100 years prior.

When the rains first started subsiding, Gordon took Bonnie and they went out to find out what happened. They first went to their neighbor’s house, Clyde. They were a bit surprised when they knocked, that there was no answer.

No regular answer, that it.

There were noises coming from Clyde’s house. Moaning and groaning from the sound of it. It sounded like Clyde might be in pain. Gordon kicked down the door – though it took a few tries – and what he and Bonnie saw turned their stomachs. Inside, Clyde and his wife were tearing at the back door – pinned in, but looking out. And they looked extremely pale.

They were not moving like normal, natural people. When they heard Gordon and Bonnie, they came after the two. Gordon did not know at the time what a biter was, but he was about to learn. He and Bonnie turned and ran back to their truck. Fortunately, the outliner Clyde and his wife were not very fast.

Gordon and Bonnie visited other friends’ houses – and got the same response everywhere. They visited the hospital in town and the police station, just to find more of the same. It was depressing.

In town, they saw a horrid sight. They had just left the police station, and saw another group of regular people like themselves. These people were in the parking lot of a shopping center, and were just out of earshot. Thanks to a high embankment and concrete wall, there was no direct access, either.

Gordon and Bonnie watched helplessly as these people were mowed down by the biters. Bonnie turned her head, and Gordon bit down hard on his own hand in disgust and horror. It was at this moment they realized they needed their guns. But their guns were back home. So back home they went.

Ultimately, it was on the car ride back that Gordon decided that they needed to go to their children’ houses and see if any of them survived. If so, they had to tell them of the horror of these infected people.

So Gordon and Bonnie went back home, got their rifles, and left out to search for their kids. After a long day of searching, and going to each house, their sadness overcame them. None of their children had survived. None of the grandchildren, either.

Gordon had thoughts then and there of taking his own life. Bonnie stopped him from that. She pointed out that she would have to do the same, as she could not go on without her husband of so long.

With that, Gordon snapped back out of his pity-party. Soon enough, he and Bonnie learned to shoot the zombies and how to stay at a good length from them. Keeping a distance made good sense, as they did not want to fight hand-to-hand with beings capable of killing them with a single bite. Gordon learned how the virus got transmitted to others via the biting. And soon enough, they started learning of the outliners.

––-

As Gordon wrapped up thinking of these old memories, he realized he was in place to watch the family go out and hunt today. That was the last thought he had before blacking out. When he awoke, he saw the most curious sight… Bonnie was there. But so were… what were those things? And where was he?
Link Posted: 8/25/2010 6:06:30 AM EDT
Ok, I'm hooked!!!
Link Posted: 8/26/2010 4:42:09 AM EDT
All right, bring it on. Lets get this party started
Link Posted: 8/26/2010 1:31:37 PM EDT
I can't go too quickly. This one is not very long. (Yes, it's already all written)

I'm writing another. Another time, another place, another story, a different scenario altogether. I'd like to have it mostly done before I wrap up putting this one on here.





OR



Should I just post a couple updates a week and not worry about the other story?
Link Posted: 8/26/2010 7:29:27 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/26/2010 7:31:35 PM EDT by Deadcenter45]
Originally Posted By Usagi:
I can't go too quickly. This one is not very long. (Yes, it's already all written)

I'm writing another. Another time, another place, another story, a different scenario altogether. I'd like to have it mostly done before I wrap up putting this one on here.





OR



Should I just post a couple updates a week and not worry about the other story?

^^ This !
Link Posted: 8/27/2010 11:07:26 AM EDT
CHAPTER 2

Kevin, his wife Megan, and children Shane and Douglas, lay motionless in the high grass outside what was once a heavily populated metro center. In the parking lot just beyond them roamed thousands of undead. These undead were the result of alien DNA, delivered by a massive comet shot off course by an alien race. The alien race had infected the comet with a particular virus carrying specific DNA combinations designed to reduce the population of earth within a short time frame.

The side effect of the DNA would be that the humans would kill each other off, and leave Earth’s plentiful resources to this evil race of blood-sucking leeches. The aliens, who referred to themselves as Tzsiks, engineered the virus to alter human DNA, turning them into monsters very much like the old zombie movies. Hidden dormant in the DNA was a series off coded strands that would activate when combined with another infected strand. The resulting mutant would bear little resemblance to humans, and would solely want to eliminate any survivors.

Kevin and his family had not been genetically predispositioned to be affected by the virus. The Tzsiks knew not all the population would be affected by the airborne variation, but they designed the strain to be 100% transferrable by any exchange of bodily fluid. The weakness of the virus and the DNA it carried was the same as all viruses – heat. To overcome this, the Tzsiks had embedded the virus deep into the comet so that it would go airborne after impact, and not burn up in atmospheric entry.

Shooting the great comet off course, then milling into the crust to embed the DNA had not been easy, but this had been planned for many years. It would be the most effective way to take over the Earth. There were many dangers to waging direct war with the humans. Most notably – the humans had weapons and technology that was more than sufficient to wage an effective war. Second most notably is that the waging of a war might drain the planet of valuable resources.

So Kevin Blakely and his family, completely unaware that the zombies they now hunted had their roots with an enemy alien race, continued the hunt. They hunted to clear out an area near them. They hunted to protect their way of life. They hunted to reassert the dominance of human beings on the face of the Earth. They hunted because if they did not hunt, they would become the hunted. They hunted because Kevin had a bad feeling about them. Little did he know that before too much longer, the Blakely’s would learn of an even more deadly race of offspring.

The Blakely’s were very good at what they did. A single family shooting clinic before the comet had hit was all they needed preparation wise. They all had learned the basics of marksmanship, and could each be counted on to be able to make effective shots to well past 400 yards with their respective “accuracy” rifles. Everything else they needed was picked up on the way. People had been wiped out so quickly, that most things could be picked up from an abandoned house or place of business.

Megan, Shane, and Douglas carried AR15 rifles for the urban combat. Kevin had one, too, but he more commonly carried an old M1A. The 7.62 round, coupled with his training and the skills he’d acquired in the days since the comet strike, could allow effective shots to be taken out to 600 yards with iron sights. Kevin was a big man, so he had less of a problem maneuvering the larger, heavier rifle.

At one point, the boys had used scopes for longer-ranged shooting. Now they carried red-dots for the close quarters work, and iron sights for the longer range stuff. Having a lighter rifle made a difference. The boys and Megan opted for weight reduction. Since cost was no longer an issue, the boys and Megan had also opted for target grade barrels. They had practiced enough to know their clicks, based on distance. They used their front sight posts as measuring tools to determine distances beyond 200 yards.

Kevin kept a sharp eye on the movements of the zombies. He wanted to wait until they were in a pattern leading away from the hiding family before opening fire. The safety of his family was his primary concern. Kevin saw the motion and the time looked right. His M1A rang out and two zombies that had been walking single file dropped.

The entire horde turned slowly to see their assailants. The Blakely’s opened fire. Measured shots were taken at first, dropping the undead like so many rocks. As the creatures closed in, Kevin kept a close watch on distance. He didn’t want them too close.

“Move!” Kevin yelled to his family over the roar of the rifles.

They moved.

Forming up into a wedge shape, the Blakely’s moved to the rear. Not a retreat, as they were moving to a more tactically sound position. Kevin and his sons all three faced the hordes. Kevin was in front and had a son to either side like a wedge. Megan was in the rear, back-to-back with Kevin. She made sure no zombies flanked them, and that they moved without stumbling or running into any object. They kept tightly packed, moving by feeling which way Megan moved.

Up a small rise they went. As the incline leveled out, then gave way to a decline, the group stopped. Kevin yelled out another order, “attack!” And they did.

In unison, the family took measured aim and fired. And fired. And fired. Zombie after zombie after zombie went down. One of the Blakely’s rotated to the rear at all times, strictly on lookout. This allowed that person’s rifle to cool, allowed the person to rest, and ensured that they were not taken by surprise. They rotated, keeping three on the firing line and one lookout at all times.

It was very evident that Kevin and his family had survived the apocalypse by way of their combined discipline. Kevin had worked with his sons and wife to formulate a game plan that would work regardless of environment. It relied on every member of the group being 100% loyal to the commands of Kevin. It relied on Kevin’s ability to improvise their plan to each environment.

Kevin, an engineer before things had changed, had a perfect mind for this sort of problem-solving. Shane was also developing potential for the same sort of thinking. Of course, being 15 years of age, his mind was occupied by the opposite sex, as was 13-year-old Douglas’. However, there were very few girls around these days, so it was never a problem.

Soon, and predictably, the Blakely’s had to move again. The zombies were getting too close. Kevin gave the command. This time, however, there were not many zombies present. Douglas took up the rear position, and the family formed their wedge again. They moved down the incline of the opposite side of the rise they had been fighting from.

The Blakely’s moved to a spot that offered a degree of protection. It was what had been a hotel, and there was a wrought-iron fence around the entire premises. Kevin and family took up refuge behind it and set up to fire at the oncoming hordes. Down the hill they came. Kevin figured this would be the last move needed as there were not enough undead to push the iron fence down.

As the zombies came over the hill, and down it, the Blakely’s again opened fire. Bullets hit home, and splattered a purple-tinged blood all over the fresh, overgrown grass on the hill. Zombie after zombie met his or her match as the high speed assault of the bullets tore through the ranks. It was all but over.

Except.

“Dad, something’s wrong!” Shane exclaimed.

He was right. Strange, powerful, crest-headed creatures were coming from the hotel. Kevin and family had never seen outliners before. There was a first time for everything and this was it.

“Megan, you and Shane finish these zombies, Doug and I will take these… things.” Kevin yelled.

The family went into action. Not wasting a moment, Kevin started shooting the outliners. There were only a few, and those were small yet. As with all outliners, they were as dangerous as anything living. The outliners went down under the assault of the 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm rounds. The 5.56 tore through them impressively, blowing holes out the back of whatever was shot with a dazzling purple spray of blood.

If the 5.56 was dazzling, then the 7.62 was simply brilliant. Brilliantly beautiful. Each shot acted like a grenade on the outliner bodies, nearly disintegrating them on impact. Both rounds were quite capable of killing two or more monsters, if they were in a line.

But Kevin realized a problem. Ammo was not unlimited. He had about a hundred rounds left, as did each member of the family. Fortunately, they were down to twenty or fewer biters and outliners. But what if there were more?

The lines went down. Monsters and zombies were shot again and again. And before long, the Blakely’s – exhausted and grimy from the fight – stood victorious in the courtyard of a hotel that once had that name.

One by one, they slumped down in a heap to rest. Kevin kept guard, and he knew he needed to be strong, because now was when his family was most vulnerable. So watch, he did. For an hour. And then they went home. But not without taking a sample of their new enemy with them. They would study it, then come out and look for more. Because that was the Blakely way.

Kevin and company made their way to their car and headed home. Their overall objective was to systematically engage and eliminate the zombie threat. No unnecessary risks, no trying too hard. Just an organized, systemized way of eliminating the threat. Make no mistake, they were a happy family, and as well-adjusted as one could be, given the circumstances. But when it came to getting down to business, they were all business.

On the way home, their mood lightened, and they enjoyed a bit of conversation. Kevin remarked that of the people they had seen since the comet, his was the only family that had not been broken up by death. He knew that was astounding and fortunate. And he really appreciated having his family still. He would work hard to make sure they were not separated by death.

“What do you make of our new ‘friend’?” Kevin asked.

“Torpedo head, with a crest around the back,” Doug responded.

“Teeth, sharp teeth. And long claws, too,” Shane said. “And it’s tail has what looks like the head of a spear on it. Whatever this thing is, I think it was made for hunting. Everything on it is a weapon.”

“We will look at it closer when we get home. What I want to know first and foremost is what are its capabilities and strengths? That will help us to be more effective in eliminating them as a threat, too.” Kevin said.

“Where did they come from, I wonder?” Megan asked aloud.

“I don’t know, but if we find out the answer to that question, it will probably help us, as well.” Kevin said.

“How can that help?” Doug asked.

“Knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses, as well as one’s enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, is the key to victory.” Kevin said.

“Knowledge is power, then?” Doug asked.

“Exactly. The more we know, the more it will help us.” Megan added.

They talked of this and that, mostly of personal achievements that day in the fight. In an orderly fashion, they all put their things away when they got home. Rifles were cleaned, magazines reloaded from the family ammo stash, belongings were squared away. Kevin marveled at the nice little family unit’s ability to keep an almost military style discipline and still be happy as a family. It worked well for them.

And it probably would as long as they were not intruded on by an outside party, Kevin thought blankly.

They examined the outliner meticulously, noting the outside weapons on its body. They dissected it and learned of its anatomy – providing them with excellent knowledge of where to place shots. They observed how the limbs moved, and recounted their memories of the outliners in combat, learning of how the creature would move in action.

Finally, they gathered round as Kevin placed some “calls” on his ham radio to other survivors. They learned that these creatures were called “outliners.” They learned that the outliners were the results of zombie people breeding. They learned of the hive nature and aggressiveness of the monsters. They learned all they could of their new foe.
Link Posted: 8/28/2010 2:45:14 PM EDT
Thanks for another chapter. I'm digging the new book.

Jason
Link Posted: 8/31/2010 11:56:22 AM EDT
CHAPTER 3

Kevin Blakely had learned a lot from the outliner he had dissected. Based on their anatomy, he predicted they were fiercely territorial. Their bodies were lean and strong, just like other predators. They had a very developed scent gland near the tail, and Kevin was unsure if this was strictly for use to mark territory, or if they could communicate other messages via the scents, as well.

Kevin couldn’t help but wonder where these things had come from. He hadn’t dismissed the thought that they might be alien in origin. But, he realized he was no zoologist, and his knowledge of species was not reliable enough for him to assume the outliner was alien in origin.

Kevin was perturbed by one thing. Most predators, or other good fighters in the animal kingdom, had one prominent weapon and a side weapon. These outliners had what seemed to be three prominent weapons.

Their teeth were fanged and very similar to those of a big cat.

Their claws were hooked and sharp like a bird of prey, but with one larger, sharper claw in the middle – like that of the extinct dinosaur known as the velociraptor.

The tail ended in a barb that was like a spear-tip. It was sharp and tri-faceted.

Each of these three things could individually be used to strip the life from another living being. And from what little Kevin had seen of them in action, they were equally disposed to using all three weapons as needed. It was almost like they were a perfect killing machine.

Kevin wondered blankly if they had been genetically engineered to be just that – perfect little killing machines.

Megan had her concerns, too. They had never seen one of these, and all of a sudden, there was a group of them. She felt they should devote more time to reconnaissance. Kevin agreed, but then there was the fact that there were only four of them, and hunting the zombies to keep their numbers in check was more necessary than learning of what was now to them an isolated occurrence.

Little did they know, they would have more experience with these killers soon enough.

“We must be wary of these creatures when we are out and about. They look to be more swift and deadly than our biter friends,” Kevin announced to the family.

“When we find them, let’s not kill them all. In fact, I suggest we withdraw.” Megan stated.

She was met with several odd glances.

“What do you have in mind?” Shane asked.

“Observation. We find out their location, withdraw, then sneak up on them later to watch and observe. The more we learn of these things, the better off we will be.” Megan said.

“Agreed.” Kevin said. “Next time we go out, and every time after that, we will keep an eye out. If we find these things, we will withdraw instead of fight. Then we will study them.”

The Blakely’s continued on their normal routine. There were no sightings for a while. Several weeks passed, then a few months. Then, one Friday, their luck hit. They were clearing a small car dealership row of zombies when they saw the outliners again. They had learned of the names by this time on the ham radio transmissions. They had also learned of some of the outliners’ tendencies.

This was to their advantage. When the Blakely family spotted the outliners, Kevin moved them away and they retreated from the scene. Later that week, they came back, this time prepared for observing the outliners.

They learned a lot about the outliners, between observation and listening to the radio transmissions on the subject. But it was pure luck that the Blakely’s found out the outliner’s deep, dark secrets. Secrets that the others either didn’t know, or wouldn’t say they knew.

Shane had brought a listening device when they went to spy on the outliners. At one point, late in the evening, the device amplified a high-pitched sound that the others could not hear. It hurt Shane’s ears, as the amplification brought the pitch into audible ranges for humans. Shane also observed that the outliners could hear this, and they responded.

The monsters gathered all around a small area where a budding outliner king was. They formed a tight group and though Kevin and his sons tried to spot what was going on, most of it was hidden from view. Then, as soon as they had converged, they separated. A smaller, dark figure was to be seen running away and ducking out of sight very quickly.

Kevin and his family noticed the figure, but thought it to be a juvenile outliner. But Kevin remembered the instance, and he felt he might have use for that memory one day. Lord knew he had other memories that he wished he could replace with that one.

Kevin thought back in time.

Seven years ago, he had made a mistake. A big mistake.
The firm Kevin had worked for had been doing close work with another company for a mutual client. Kevin and his coworkers were engineers, and were helping design a building. The construction company they worked with had its own engineers and they collaborated on ways to make the building look like it was supposed to, as well as function and be stable.

The supervisor of the project for the construction company had been a man named Drew. He was very intelligent, and had “street smarts,” too. That summer, his daughter had been an intern with his company. Naturally, Kevin had met her as they worked closely together – as did all of the employees of both firms.

The daughter had been very bright, and knew a lot about how things worked mechanically. She was also very athletic. Kevin couldn’t deny she was very easy on the eyes, as well. This had spawned the problem. The young lady had been very attentive to any attention he sent her way. She reciprocated very well. She would bring them both a beer after work and they would drink and talk.

She told him all about her days in college – how she liked this professor or disliked that one. She would labor on and on about subjects she had taken. Two years into college and she really seemed to have a grip on things. She was on her way to graduating a semester early. She knew which professors to take, and which ones to avoid. She had mastered negotiating for better grades. She was certainly bright and would do well no matter what she chose – though she had already chosen interior design.

Though her father had introduced her with another name, she wanted Kevin to call her Rene. Kevin realized all too late that in his kind heartedness in listening to her, he had actually developed an interest in her. He couldn’t tell Megan. Rene knew it, too. Unlike Kevin, however, she welcomed the interaction. She knew he was married, but she said that a man deserved to be treated well, and she could tell he hadn’t been. That was partly true.

Days passed and they grew closer to one another. They would talk about everything. After some time and prodding, Kevin even admitted to Rene that his wife Megan had not been supportive of him. She felt he was too hard on the kids. He felt she wasn’t hard enough on them and that’s why they acted out.

They would go out and have dinner from time to time. A couple of times, Rene had too much to drink and Kevin would give her a ride home. They talked about everything. Rene listened and showed compassion.

Compassion became passion.

One day, as they talked on after working hours, as they often did, the subject went to a place Kevin would normally have been uncomfortable with. Rene asked him how long it had been since he’d been shown affection. It had been months. She took his response in stride, and stated that when she found a man, he would never want for attention. Not only would she enjoy showering him with her affection, but she would do it out of love for him even if she wasn’t necessarily in the mood.

And with that, the physical relationship began. Kisses at first. Kevin had mixed feelings at that point. Then things progressed, and he lost his inhibitions. He felt his wife should have been providing these things for him. Rene kept that thought going for him, by suggesting as much whenever she could. As they progressed with the physical shows of affection, Kevin became more distant to his wife at home. And for the time, she was actually a bit glad for the change.

And finally, Kevin and Rene committed to the consummating act. Again, Kevin was reticent at first, and even found himself regretting the action shortly thereafter. Then, Rene initiated again the next day – after work as always. She gave him the attention he had wanted for so long, and could never have hoped to get from a beautiful young lady in her early twenties.

They were careful. Kevin and Rene both knew that things would get complicated at work if anyone found out. So, for appearances, they actually talked less and less during the day. In the afternoon, when others had gone home, they relaxed in each other’s arms. They engaged in the act daily. Rene had told Kevin she was on the pill, and nothing happened the first few months. So they kept at it.

And then, as summer wound down, they realized it would be harder to keep things up. Rene said she would call Kevin after school settled down. Kevin, deep in embarrassment, did not try to contact her. He could never tell his wife he had a mistress. It would destroy their lives, and he didn’t really want a divorce.

Kevin did not hear from Rene. August passed, then September. Finally, in October, he got a call from a crying Rene. She needed to meet him after work, could he please come pick her up?

He did, of course. And they went to a more secluded area. And Rene, as she always did, turned things physical again. And Kevin, having not had that kind of attention since the last time he and Rene were together, gladly participated. An afterward, Rene had some shocking news.

She wasn’t Rene… Kevin couldn’t bring himself to say or ever remember her real name.

She was not in college… she was still in high school.

She was not in her early twenties… she was in her mid-teens.

She was pregnant… and it was Kevin’s child.

His head swam. He thought of the legal implications of what he’d done. He thought of the impending divorce he would surely have. He thought of what he would tell his sons. He thought about ending it all. He thought about all of the things he should have thought of much earlier – before it had crossed over to the physical.

Kevin realized that Rene’s dad, Drew, was not going to be working with him anymore. Their company had been replaced, and Drew was mad about it, and that would be his way out. He would accuse Drew of just being mad and trying to use his daughter’s unfortunate pregnancy as his weapon.

And Rene – which was her real middle name, if not the name most of her friends called her – said she would just say it was one of two or three boys she’d slept with at school in an evening of poor judgment. She didn’t want to see Kevin hurt. She would keep his secret. She was infatuated with Kevin. She was infatuated with being able to woo a married man. She was fascinated by her newfound power over the opposite sex. And she would keep her secret for Kevin to keep that power.

And Kevin wanted her to do just that. He wanted to keep the relationship with her. At one point, he wanted to wait until she was of legal age, then divorce his wife and marry her. His thinking was degenerating into what-if’s and wishful thinking. He would wait three years for her to be legal to marry? Renee was barely older than his own son.

Rene figured out more about what she could do with her less constrained outlook on her sexuality. She used this as a tool to get things she wanted – from boys at school, from teachers, and other men she met. Even though pregnant, she kept that a secret from all but her family until is was so obvious she could no longer hide it.

Rene used her influence to help her grades, get gifts and attention from the boys in school, and generally to help her own self esteem.

As the months progressed, she talked to Kevin less and less. Then the baby was born. She never told Kevin about it, other than to say the baby was born and he had a son, and she told him his son’s name. Of course, the following year she worked for her dad again, but his company had moved on to other projects, so Kevin never saw her. Rene did, however, see other men. She gained a real preference for older men. They generally had more money and were more physically satisfying for her.

Before anybody knew it, several years had passed and Kevin kept his secret, and Rene kept hers, and all was as fine as could be. They never spoke. Kevin wondered about his son from time to time. Kevin also became more and more complacent that his secret would never be exposed.

And Kevin reflected on all of this as he and his family went back home after spying on the outliners.

But Megan’s thoughts were elsewhere…

Link Posted: 9/2/2010 3:57:48 PM EDT
Wow - nobody liked that chapter?
Link Posted: 9/2/2010 5:41:27 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Usagi:
Wow - nobody liked that chapter?


Trying to figure out where exactly it's going. Keep it coming.
Link Posted: 9/2/2010 5:45:54 PM EDT
Well, I did!


Mikey
Link Posted: 9/2/2010 7:49:33 PM EDT
Originally Posted By FIELD_MP:
Originally Posted By Usagi:
Wow - nobody liked that chapter?


Trying to figure out where exactly it's going. Keep it coming.


Trying to develop characters.
Link Posted: 9/2/2010 10:26:05 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Usagi:
Originally Posted By FIELD_MP:
Originally Posted By Usagi:
Wow - nobody liked that chapter?


Trying to figure out where exactly it's going. Keep it coming.


Trying to develop characters.


I like it. Keep up the good work!

Link Posted: 9/4/2010 8:19:40 PM EDT
I liked it Usagi.
Just catching up on this story.
Link Posted: 9/7/2010 12:36:55 PM EDT
CHAPTER 4

Megan, too, thought of those unhappy years with Kevin. She had never been aware of his misdeeds, but that was due to the fact that she was caught up in her own misdeeds. She had not been completely faithful to her husband all those years. It had been too hard. She’d felt emotionally abandoned after her youngest, Doug, was born.

So she was not altogether unhappy with a certain turn of events. About seven or eight years in the past, she had been out in the middle of the day. She was running some errands and shopping while the kids were at school. She had just come from an exercise class and been eating lunch alone at the food court in the mall when something happened.

A man, a complete stranger, asked if he could sit across from her for some company. At first, she thought it might not be a good idea. But he was so good looking and nice and sweet, she asked herself, what harm could come of it? He introduced himself as Mark. He worked nearby at a jewelry store as the manager.

They chatted about this and that. Mark was so much better at conversation than her husband, Kevin. And he smiled a lot at her. Megan liked that. During the conversation, she noticed he had a ring on. He was married, but had the confidence to sit with her and strike up a conversation? She liked this, but was a bit confused at the same time. She knew she would never forget the conversation.

“Can I ask you something?” Mark said suddenly.

“Sure,” Megan responded.

“My wife and I are… having trouble. That’s the reason I came up to you and wanted to speak with you.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Megan said.

“I wanted the opinion of someone that has no dog in the fight at all.” Mark said.

“I guess that could be me.”

“I hope. Here’s the deal. She moved out several months ago. She said she needs time to work out some things. She hasn’t been seeing anybody that I know of. I think she still loves me, but I don’t think she likes me anymore. I want to know your opinion?” Mark asked.

Megan asked him some more questions about their situation. Mark had been separated from his wife for a few months. He didn’t really think things were going to get better. She understood. Emotionally, she felt the same way. Kevin had been disconnected from her for quite some time.

So they chatted on and on. And it grew later in the day, and Megan realized she needed to get home. Doug was in Kindergarten, and he did not get home until 2:30. Shane got home later – at a quarter to four. She had just a little while to get back in time for them. Mark told her which jewelry store he worked at – it was in the mall. He thanked her sincerely for her time and they parted ways.

And for two days, she could think of nothing but Mark. It was easy, Kevin did not give her the attention she needed, and when he was off doing something else, or wrapped up in his work from home, she would think about Mark.

This went on for two days. Finally, Megan worked up the courage to go back to the mall and look for Mark. She put on nice clothes, but not fancy. She chose her best perfume, and did her hair up really nice. It took a lot of guts. She sat in her car for half an hour before leaving that day. But she finally did it.

She went to the mall, and found the jewelry store Mark worked at. She walked by a few times, trying to catch a glimpse of him in the store. But he was not there. So finally, she worked up the courage to walk inside. It was nearly noon.

Palms sweating, she took a deep breath and walked into the store. A well dressed associate with a friendly smile greeted her and asked if he could help. She glanced about the counter as she responded.

“Yes, is Mark here?” Megan’s heart was pounding.

She noticed Mark’s card near the cash register, and casually took one as the associate responded.

“Ma’am, today is his day off. May I assist you?” he said with his warm smile and casual way.

“Mark was helping me with a specific purchase. The details are… well, I wouldn’t want to take up your time on something with so many specifics. Will he back tomorrow?”

“Yes, ma’am. Should I tell him you came by?”

“No thanks, that won’t be necessary.” Megan said.

And Megan went home dejected. She had built up her hopes, and conquered her fear to go meet with Mark again, but he hadn’t been there. She would have to do the whole thing again tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and Megan prepared herself again after Kevin left for work and the boys were off to school. This time, though, things were much easier to do from an emotional point of view. There was no long wait in her car, trying to build the nerve. She had done so much the day before, it had really broken down some barriers.

Again, Megan walked the mall. It was early – about 11 am. She cruised past the jewelry store, and saw Mark in the showroom. He smiled broadly when she walked in. His associate, the same man who’d helped Megan the day before, smiled his usual warm smile as well.

“Megan, good to see you.” Mark said.

Megan’s knees almost buckled as she worked up the courage to speak and ask the question she wanted to ask.

“Good to see you, too, Mark. Would you want to have lunch with me again today so we can discuss things in more detail?”

She wanted to be vague so as not to tip off his associate.

“Yes, I want to make sure we get this gemstone exactly right.” He said with a wink and a smile.

The associate had told him. And he had played it off as normal and went with it. Great! This guy really got it! Kevin would have blubbered and floundered and never caught on. Mark went in the back and came out with a box that looked as though it contained samples or the like.

Megan and Mark got lunch and made small talk for quite a while. She asked several times if he needed to get back. No, he’d reply, he was the manager, and it was typical that he’d handle the odd requests and take his time in doing so. What he really meant was that he knew his employees preferred him being gone. They performed well, so it didn’t matter. He just had to do periodic administrative duties to keep the regional manager off his back.

“So how long can you stay out here?” Megan asked.

“Well, we’ve only been out here 45 minutes. The office is covered for the rest of the day. I can stay as long as you want to talk.” Mark responded.

It was obvious he knew what she was thinking, and that was OK with him, too.

“I wish we could go somewhere… private.” She said.

He looked into her eyes and saw the true meaning. He’d hoped that was it, and her countenance told him it was. He took a risk.

“My place is only five minutes away.”

“That would be good. That would be really good.” Megan said with a gleam in her eye.

Inside she was nervous. On edge. She tried to calm herself. Then she realized he was probably about the same inside as she was. Truth be told, he was. Mark was, in fact, separated from his wife. Divorce proceedings were scheduled. He had checked out of his marriage mentally. And he knew Megan had done the same, even if she wasn’t in the middle of a divorce at the moment.

Mark needed a good rebound, and Megan would provide just that for him. He figured she was a grown woman and if she wanted to involve herself with him, despite being married, then that was her business and not his. He really didn’t care why she was doing what she was doing.

They got in Mark’s car. He picked up his cell phone and put his finger to his mouth so she would be quiet.

“Antonio, it’s Mark. I’m finished with Mrs. Blakely. I’m going to lunch, then to the bank and I have a couple of other errands. I’ll see you in a bit. Ok. Goodbye.”

“That was quick.” Megan pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s been in management a while. They really don’t need me there except to sign off on orders and do the Manager-specific administrative stuff.” Mark said.

And they talked about small things all the way to Mark’s place. Which was, in fact, five minutes from the mall where they’d been. Megan felt her stomach getting butterflies. She wanted to hide, to go away. But at the same time, she wanted to be with Mark. She wanted to try the forbidden fruit.

Five minutes after arriving, she was trying the forbidden fruit.

And Megan felt exhilarated, and shamed, and happy, and sad, and relieved. All at the same time. She wanted to see him again. And she did. She went back, several times every week. They’d slip out together and talk, and spend time together, and engage in carnal activity, and generally enjoy each other’s company.

And there came a time when Mark moved away. And for a while, Megan was angry. But then she realized she could do the same with another man. And she did. And Megan lived this way right up to the time when the comet hit.

After the comet strike, Megan became extremely dependant on her husband. She was very thankful she never ended things with him. He provided security and stability, especially in hard times. What he lacked in sensitivity, he made up for in masculinity – he was a great protector and provider. And he’d never, ever cheat on her, she thought.

And these thoughts filled Megan’s head as they reached the next destination. She and Kevin and the boys watched and observed.

When they got home that evening, there was a strange note taped to their door. It was an invitation. It read:

TOMORROW – GATHERING
MAIN MALL – 10:00 AM
PEOPLE MUST UNITE TO DEFEAT THE THREAT!

Link Posted: 9/10/2010 10:59:27 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Usagi:
Wow - nobody liked that chapter?


Nope. Not necessary for a good story. Guess I'm too naive or something but I don't enjoy reading about dudes cheating on their wives even if it is a fiction story. Honestly, it turned me off to the whole thing and the only reason I came back to it is because I was TDY and forgot about it. I won't be back to finish it. Too bad because I was enjoying it until this chapter.
Link Posted: 9/11/2010 6:14:10 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/11/2010 6:15:51 AM EDT by BroncoMafia]
I think with this character development, something bad is going to happen to the cheating female.
She is no longer sympathetic or virtuous, kind of like how kids get killed by the slasher after having sex in horror movies.

The guy feels guilt about his actions and has been otherwise virtuous and responsible for the survival of the family so he will probably survive despite his infidelity.

I didn't enjoy the subject of that part either, but when I read stuff like that in these stories, I am very critical of errors in the authors understanding of the characters motives and of human nature in general.
A 15 year old boy cannot write a convincing story about what happens in the hearts of adults in situations like this. You can't write convincingly about it from watching soap operas of Jerry Springer. Some things require life experience before understanding can truly be achieved.
Usagi gets good marks for his understanding of the weakness of the human heart.

Now, please kill the filthy, lying whore and get back to the zombies
Link Posted: 9/11/2010 6:30:07 AM EDT
Originally Posted By BroncoMafia:
I think with this character development, something bad is going to happen to the cheating female.
She is no longer sympathetic or virtuous, kind of like how kids get killed by the slasher after having sex in horror movies.

The guy feels guilt about his actions and has been otherwise virtuous and responsible for the survival of the family so he will probably survive despite his infidelity.

I didn't enjoy the subject of that part either, but when I read stuff like that in these stories, I am very critical of errors in the authors understanding of the characters motives and of human nature in general.
A 15 year old boy cannot write a convincing story about what happens in the hearts of adults in situations like this. You can't write convincingly about it from watching soap operas of Jerry Springer. Some things require life experience before understanding can truly be achieved.
Usagi gets good marks for his understanding of the weakness of the human heart.

Now, please kill the filthy, lying whore and get back to the zombies

Action coming soon. Thanks for the input.
PS - you were right about needing the life experience. I've not gone through the things I've written of personally, but have had family and close friends both go through almost everything I've written about. Got to see it first-hand. I changed some names and a few details, to keep them anonymous (though none of these people ever read this site).


Nope. Not necessary for a good story. Guess I'm too naive or something but I don't enjoy reading about dudes cheating on their wives even if it is a fiction story. Honestly, it turned me off to the whole thing and the only reason I came back to it is because I was TDY and forgot about it. I won't be back to finish it. Too bad because I was enjoying it until this chapter.

Sorry it wasn't your kind of story.
Thank you for the input, nevertheless.
I do challenge you to read on, as the story will be changing. I wrote it from several points of view, and tried to tie in several story lines to meet at a point.



To all:
I wanted this story to piss people off. A lot. In different ways.
I wanted one main, but flawed character to emerge a hero.
I wanted to explain how the whole Outline thing came to be.
I wanted a bit of shock - but no Howard Stern moment.
I wanted to write about real life, and tie it in with fantasy.

I know I'll never be a professional writer, but I'd like to improve my skills at the craft, which is why I post on here and solicit comments - good and bad.
So far, I've taken great pleasure from folks who have offered suggestions and criticisms. I think these have made me a better writer.
Link Posted: 9/11/2010 9:40:58 AM EDT
The infidelity scenario strikes close to home for many people. Even if it hasn't impacted them directly, we all know people hurt by this and the destruction of the American family is yet another weakened part of the foundation of our great country.
You must have written the section well to strike such a powerful nerve.
Thanks and . . . MORE ;-)
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 5:55:31 AM EDT
CHAPTER 5

Jason was a lucky man. He was lucky to have Bree, and he knew that. He was lucky to have survived the comet strike, and he knew that. He was lucky to have survived the plague that came after the comet, and he knew that.

Jason had been lucky before the comet strike, too. But he figured his good luck in one area was there to cancel out his bad luck in another area of life. He had never had much luck in relationships. Before or after the comet strike.

Jason and Bree had settled in to the post apocalyptic world since the comet strike that had sent the rains for months, and the dust that had some virus that turned people into zombies. They had settled in, as much as they thought people could settle in any more. They had claimed a large house – formerly the property of a wealthy man in town. That wealthy man didn’t need it any more. He had turned into a zombie and been shot by some family of four that was out trying to be heroes by eliminating the surrounding areas of the zombies.

Jason and Bree had no desire to be heroes, they just wanted to live.

They lived primarily by running when out and about. When at home, they used the fact that the mansion they had assumed ownership of had a large stone fence all around it. The iron gate at the front was solid and heavy and kept the zombies out. That’s why Jason had targeted this place to be his new home.

Bree was three months pregnant with Jason’s first child, though she had not told him yet. She was not sure how he would react. He could be unpredictable when things didn’t go exactly as he wanted them to go. She figured it might be best to let him find out on his own and act just as surprised as him. Otherwise, Jason might accuse her of hiding things from him.

Jason was headed out this morning to get some food and whatever else he could find of value. He’d told Bree to stay home, as he would be a while, and she needed to wash their clothes. Jason drove to an area he had raided for food before. But this time, it looked different.

There were bodies of zombies in the yards of the houses everywhere.

Jason looked around, the first few houses had no food left, and little else of value to be seen. Every house in the neighborhood looked the same from the outside. Each of them had a simple symbol painted on the front. Jason didn’t waste his time searching all of the houses, one or two was a pattern, and the rest looked the same. Somebody else had been here.

He swore as he got in his truck, and drove on up the road. For many miles, each neighborhood looked much the same. Somebody had been systematic in their searches. Jason drove on, to the next town. He figured he might have more luck there. As he drove, he reflected on how he had come to this point.

––-

A year before the comet, Jason had been in a relationship with Amy. She was not everything to him, but they got along, as well as Jason got along with anybody. Amy was a decent cook and looked cute, so he kept her around. He figured that if he ever got a chance with someone better, it would be easy to let go of Amy. She stayed with him, but he had no problem with the idea of kicking her out.

One day, Amy came home early and found Jason online, chatting with another woman. She could be understanding to a point, but this was way past that point. She confronted Jason, and they fought. She stayed at her place that evening, crying most of the night.

The next week, things had not gotten a lot better, but Amy was trying to stay with Jason, at least until she could find out how serious he was about getting out of the relationship. She had rescheduled a dentist appointment, but took the time off work anyways, so that she could investigate.

Amy went to his apartment and snooped around. She had the key, so it wasn’t illegal, but she still felt like she was sneaking around – primarily because she was. Jason was at work, and wouldn’t be back until 2 that afternoon, so she helped herself to his computer.

There, Amy started crying as she saw Jason’s full-blown effort to find another woman. If he had only told her he wasn’t happy, she wouldn’t have wasted her time! She felt betrayed.

And then the door opened.

Amy spun around, saw the astonished look on Jason’s face, and walked out without saying a word. She emailed him later that night, saying she would pick up her things in a couple of days, and if he could have them in a box waiting.

And Jason was relieved, and hurt all at the same time. Though he knew he deserved it, he had hoped to secure another flame before letting go of Amy. That’s how women so often did things. But he was the asshole for doing the same thing Amy had done when she had found Jason. It just wasn’t right. But it was the way things are.

Six months down the road and Jason had made some progress in some areas, and none in some others. But one thing had happened of note. He had won the lottery. $64 million payout. Even though he took the instant cash payout, and taxes were a killer, he had been able to set up some conservative investments with guaranteed payout percentages. With the amount he had invested, it meant he could spend $60,000 per month and never touch the principle.

Jason had taken the money and done several things with it. He paid off what little debt he had. Of course, Jason had left his job in IT when he got his first check. He got a check that was more than he used to take home in a year – and that check was for just the first month!

He bought a small arsenal of guns. Being a gun fan, he bought extras of everything he liked. Jason also bought mounds of ammo. He kept most of this at three different storage facilities across town. He packed a duplicate set of rifles and pistols at each location, as well as his apartment. He kept at least 10,000 rounds for each gun at each location.

Jason bought a new truck. It was a regular cab and short wheel base, with 4x4 capabilities. He bought a few other survival type items, and duplicated them at each storage facility. After all was said and done, Jason had a 30-day supply of food and water, as well as guns, ammo, and basic tools at each location.

But he kept striking out with the women, and he couldn’t figure out why. Then it dawned on him. He didn’t really want a woman with whom to compromise, like most people do in most relationships. He wanted things on his terms for the most part. There were a few things he could give on, but mostly, he just wanted things his way. How to get around that? He wondered.

It took a few weeks of mulling over this problem before Jason came up with a solution. A devious solution. One he might have to try out several times before he got it right. His first attempt? A friend. Somebody who he knew, but that the loss of her friendship would not be a major loss for him.

He called his friend, Terri. She would be a good trial run. They met for dinner. Not out of the ordinary. That would help Jason be more comfortable with what he wanted to ask. The appetizer was there and they both had a glass of wine underway when Jason worked up the courage to ask what he wanted to ask.

“Terri, I have a proposition for you. An offer, if you will. If at any point, you hear something you don’t like, tell me. I’ll stop right there. I’ll even pause from time to time to let you interject, if you need.”

“Okay. Sounds serious.” She said.

“It is serious. I don’t want you to doubt that. But, even though it’s strictly business, I wanted to ask a friend first and foremost. You are the only friend I have right now that this request would be appropriate for.” Jason said.

“Go on. What is it?”

“I’d like to propose a business arrangement. As you know, I am a single man – just like you are a single woman. We both have needs and wants. While I do not think we would make a good couple, I don’t see why we can’t work together to help each other out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I suggest,” Jason said. “That you be at my bidding. Be my companion.”

Jason paused. Terri didn’t interrupt.

“For your ‘companionship,’ if you catch my drift, I’ll offer financial incentive.”

“What sort of ‘companionship’ do you mean?” she asked.

“Adult.” Jason responded.

Nothing from Terri. That was good, Jason thought.

“I will offer $1000 per week. In exchange, there would be no strings attached. No relationship needed – other than what we already know. If I bring home a girlfriend, or just a girl for the evening, I’ll let you know so you can go back home. But you would still make the money for that week for being available.”

Still nothing.

Jason continued, “and if there comes a time where you or I become attached, then there is not any harm, or emotional loss, if the deal is severed.”

Silence.

“So what do you think?” Jason asked.

“I think you just offered for me to be your hooker. How do you think that makes me feel?” Terri asked. She didn’t look mad.

“You tell me.” He responded.

“I feel cheap and degraded. Thank you for your offer, but no thanks.” Terri said.

With that, she got up and left. Jason finished his dinner and left. He figured he had some modifications to do to his delivery before he’d get it right. So he went home and worked on it some more.

Several more times in the next few months, he would have a date with someone. Eventually, if things were not going as he hoped, then he would bring out his offer. He got several straight turn downs. Right up until Debra.

Debra was a date for Jason about three months after Terri. She had been desperate for money, as she was without a job, but didn’t tell Jason. He bills were piling up, and she was about to get kicked out of her home as it was in foreclosure. She thought Jason was earnest enough. And $4000 per month was good. So when Jason made his offer, she listened. When he asked what she thought, she thought for a moment.

Then Debra said, “Fair offer. What ‘requirements’ would you have?”

Jason told her. His requirements were not fit for print, but were of an adult nature.

“I meet most of those, and have no problem with the rest.” She said.

“You accept, then?” Jason asked.

“No,” she said. And Debra was quiet.

“Why not?” Jason asked.

“I would take you up, but $1000 per week is not enough.”

Jason’s expression changed. This could be it, he thought! “What do you have in mind?”

“1500. No less.”

“Hmmm,” Jason thought. “How about $1000 per week. But if you and I both strike out for the week – necessitating that I ‘use your services’ for the full week – then I pay a $500 bonus. Performance based incentive, we can call it.”

Jason nodded to the waiter who had refilled his water.

Debra tapped her fingertips together. “Fair. Put your requirements on paper, so I can make sure I meet them all, and so that I don’t forget.”

“Will do. When do you want to start?” Jason asked.

Terri thought for a moment again, “next week?”

“Done. I’ll email the requirements to you tonight after dinner.”

And with that, the deal was struck. Jason and Terri lived with the deal, right up until the comet strike. When the comet struck, Terri had been at her place. Jason had figured she was dead with the many others. Jason never went to her place to check and see if she made it.

Eventually, Jason picked out the mansion, and moved in it. His stashes of guns and supplies turned out to be a good thing. One stash in one storage facility had been raided by people, but the others were intact. Jason generally stayed alive by staying away from zombies. He was a poor shot, and even worse at fighting.

A couple of years after the comet struck, Jason found Bree. She was living in a house he was searching for food in. They met, and realized they would both be better off with a partner than without. Eventually, they became romantically involved. Bree saw Jason’s character problems, but there were not many men to choose from these days.

––-

Bree thought these thoughts most days. Today, however, she decided when Jason came home, she would tell him about his unborn child. Whatever the consequences, he should still know the truth.

And hours came and went, and Jason came home. He had food and some clothes and more ammo with him. After she helped him unload it, Bree decided to tell him her secret.

“Jason, I need to tell you something.” She said.

“What is it, babe?”

“I am pregnant. I wasn’t sure at first, but I know for sure now.”

Jason let that sink in. Then he went into a rage. Fists and feet flew. Bree was beaten severely. She was hurt so badly, she could barely move. Jason went upstairs and stayed all night. In the middle of the night, Bree miscarried the baby.

She decided to leave him then and there. What good was it to stay with a man for protection, and then have the man be the one to bring harm?

The next day she left Jason. It took a long time, but she figured out how to sustain herself… barely. She slept in abandoned houses. She ate what food she could find. She looked hard for a provider for her. But during these many months, she realized something was not right. She never again experienced her ‘monthly visitor.’ She knew she was damaged goods.

… maybe that wouldn’t come into play, though. She hoped it wouldn’t. She had wanted kids one day. And the thought of never having them depressed her.

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 5:57:16 AM EDT
CHAPER 6

Corey remained motionless in his tree-limb perch. He was thoroughly disguised, so much so that the deer beneath him never knew he was there. But Corey knew they were there. He aimed his rifle and fired. The deer dropped. The .30-06 had done its job again. Corey was an M1 Garand fan, and that is what he armed himself with this day.

Corey busied himself with cleaning the harvest. As he took the meat, he thought about himself and how he had arrived at this point. He recalled his earlier years, so happy with his bride at the time. He remembered the day his daughter, Aubrie, was born and how happy that made him. He so wanted more children. But his wife, Cheryl, would not able to bear more. Something had happened in childbirth, and Aubrie had been hurt, and Cheryl had, too.

And so Cheryl had died due to the complications, and Corey had been forced to raise little Aubrie by himself. It was not easy, but she was worth it. Every night after work, he would pick up his daughter at his parents’ house, and take her home. And their life had been so wonderful, always full of fun and excitement.

When Aubrie was just three, a massive comet had hit the Earth. It caused rain without end for days. And it brought the plague. Little Aubrie was young and vulnerable, and had caught the plague. And Corey had very nearly been bitten by her at one point before leaving. And that day was the worst day in his life. The same day he learned of his parents fate – which was the same as his daughter’s.

And these thoughts caused tears to flow from Corey’s eyes as he dressed his game. And those tears he embraced. He did not hide from his emotions, and he knew they made him who he was. And he knew that even if he ever found another special someone – and the likelihood of that these days was slim at best – that the new person, and any children, could never take the place of his beloved Aubrie and Cheryl. He would love them, nonetheless. If given the chance, that is.

Corey finished his task and took the meat. It had been a couple of months since he’d had some meat. He carefully made his way back to his apartment. He lived in the makeshift garage that he’d rented back before the comet. Though the owners were now dead, and his daughter was no longer there, he had held on to this place for sentimental reasons. He could have chosen a larger home, but this was all he needed.

His meal that night was simple, but tasty. He ate in silence, as he always did. He listened to the noises made by the occasional pocket of biters left out there. He had all but swept his part of town of the scourge, but the zombies were always on the move. And recently, he had been seeing the outliners. He listened to radio transmissions and picked up the names of the creatures from the other people he heard.

In his own way, Corey was happy. He wanted more, but he also knew having a family might not be possible any more. Still, he never gave up hope. He would go out tomorrow and look for some people. If he found people, he would find hope.

So many families had been torn apart in this mess. It was not surprising, when Corey listened to radio transmissions, to hear of new families being formed here and there. Everyone had lost a loved one. The few who remained often had been separated in death from their spouses.

Corey had never really been a gun guy. He had an old M1 that had once belonged to his grandfather in WWII. It had been passed to his father, who then gave it to Corey as a gift. As with most of his belongings, it held a strong sentimental value. He was familiar with other platforms, but the Garand was his, and it was his favorite.

And he was quite proficient with one.

The next morning, Corey took his Garand, several dozen loaded clips of ammo, some basic supplies for a day or two, and headed to the east to the next town over. He was going to look for human survivors. Even if unfit for starting a family with, it would be good to have a network of friends whom he could help and, in turn, call on for help.

––-

As he drove, Corey reflected more on his past. Some weeks after his beloved daughter had died, he was out at a local grocery store, gathering some food. It had been a real tough morning, as he’d had to dispatch some 30+ zombies just to get into the store. Most he’s done away with fell at the pull of a trigger from his M1, but a few had fallen at his hand via the blade. Corey kept a large bowie knife on his person when he went out. The blade never ran out of ammo, and was quite useful in taking care of things up close.

Corey reflected that at the time, he was still an emotional wreck, and as such, he often failed at keeping things secure. He wouldn’t check the whole store this time, and he was nearly ambushed by zombies in the aisles on a couple of occasions. His .45 pistol had saved him from needing to get close enough for knife work.

As he collected food, he had not been paying attention to his surroundings, as he several times missed the dark-clad figure watching him in the shadows. Several times, tears flowed freely as he thought of his departed daughter. As he made his way back outside to his truck, the figure in the shadows followed at a safe distance, watching and waiting.

He loaded his vehicle with the food, and drove away. He never noticed the car following him at a distance. He got home, and was met by a fairly normal sized horde of zombies roaming through – about 15 or 20 of them altogether. Parking his car at a distance, he took out the M1 and rested it on a rolled up jacket set on his car.

Corey blasted away. He would set his sights on one biter some 200 yards out. He waited until he had a steady sight picture, then gently squeezed the trigger. The biter would drop. He was quick to open both eyes to establish his next target – he didn’t want to take too much time and accidentally let them in too close. Another zombie selected as a target, sights on target, respiratory pause, trigger squeeze, follow through, zombie down.

He took out biter after biter with the big battle rifle. It was rewarding to watch his own handiwork as each shot dropped an enemy. Most, since they were within a couple hundred yards, he took out with head shots. Some he shot in the body. Never did he miss. He might have been an emotional wreck, but he was able to detach himself easily and complete the job at hand.

When he had whittled their numbers down to less than a half dozen, Corey decided to save some ammo. He pulled his knife and charged at the slow-moving former humans. He moved quickly, and saved motion, but in moments, the biters were down. Corey went on to make sure the rest were not a problem, either.

Never once did he see the car parked some 400-500 yards behind his. The dark clad figure was motionless and the engine was shut off. Corey instead focused on getting his car back in his driveway and unloading his groceries. The task took only a few moments, and then Corey glanced around to make sure there were no more zombies, and then he ducked into the converted garage he called home.

When he had glanced around, he had failed to see the car rolling up to his home and by it quietly. He never saw the car go into the driveway of a house about two blocks away. Corey was completely unaware that the dark clad figure got out of the car and headed toward him. He never heard the moans of the biters that saw the person and attacked. He was totally oblivious to the fact that a struggle for survival raged on between three zombies and a lone person.

All Corey knew was that a few moments after he had settled in, there was a panicked knock at his door. A woman’s voice was screaming for help. It was coherent, though obviously distressed. It was also the first living person he’d seen since the passing of his daughter. He saw her because he took pity, and opened the door to help her.

When he opened the door, a woman, younger than him by a few years from her looks, was crying, and had torn clothes, and was begging him to help. There were three monsters behind her, closing fast. Corey grabbed his .45 and put them down in short order. After taking a moment to pull the corpses around and out into the street with the others, he went back to the house to meet and comfort his new guest.

She was shivering and crying. It was a bit cold out, being the last part of November. Corey had been moving, and had never shed his sweatshirt and boots after putting the food away. He had little heat in the building, and was now ashamed of that fact. He started a fire in his little grill. Normally, he would have used charcoal for the grilling of his food, but this time, he used wood for the heat.

Corey gave her some bottled water to drink and wrapped a blanket around her. “Are you OK?” he asked.

“I’m OK, I think,” she said. She was still shivering and she checked herself carefully for bites.

“I’m Corey. What’s your name?” Corey asked as he helped her check for bites. Even one bite, and he might have to do something he’d rather not.

“Bree,” she said. “It’s short for Breanna. Thank you for opening your door.”

“Not a problem, Bree. Where did you come from?”

Bree was not entirely comfortable answering this question, but she didn’t let it show. Instead, she replied with a half-truth. “I was just down the road from you when you got home. I was drawn by the gunfire. I figured that these zombies didn’t shoot guns, so whoever it was would likely be better company. I was right.”

Corey blushed at the compliment. “How did you know I had just got home?” Corey said.

Bree was taken aback at his quick thinking. She thought quickly and said, “it was pretty easy to tell… I saw you carrying things into the house. Nobody does that unless they just got home. I may only be twenty, but I’m not an idiot,” she lied.

“Good point.”

“Anyways,” she continued. “I thought I’d come and try to meet you. But the zombies ambushed me. I fought them, and screamed for you, but I guess I was too far away. I managed to get free of them and I ran here. I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to bring trouble to you. I just thought you might know how to handle those things since you were shooting earlier.”

“I’m glad you came. You are welcome to stay. I don’t want to get all sentimental, but the fact is that I’ve had no company since just after the comet strike. And all this rain makes things a little dreary. I welcome having some company. Seeing another living person does a body good.” Corey said. He didn’t want to add that he thought she was more than a bit cute, too.

Bree knew that’s what Corey was thinking, though. She could see the way he looked at her. And she thought it over, well in advance, that this might wind up being the case. Her mind rolled the thought over and over and she decided that he could offer protection. And she was willing to offer whatever he wanted in exchange. At first, the thought sounded a bit manipulative, but eventually she decided to go with it, the risk being well worth the reward. All the while, she knew she must keep one little secret that might be an obstacle to the whole thing.

“Likewise, it’s good to see another living person,” Bree said with a big smile. “It’s doubly good that person is strong and protective. I am a lucky girl that you offered to let me stay. I would very much like to stay. I can pay you…”

“Pay? Money is a thing of the past. I don’t know what I would do with it.” Corey interrupted.

“Well then, we will just have to barter.” Bree said.

And at that point, Bree made a very forward offer for Corey. In his weakened emotional state, and with few other choices, he accepted it. It took him by surprise even more that she wanted to start the barter that very day. It was very much a rebound situation for Corey. However, he enjoyed the physicality of it all. It wasn’t every day that even before the comet he would have had a chance with a twenty-year-old. Maybe one day, they might be able to have children!

But that was the problem. Bree knew from previous injures that she would never be able to conceive. And some weeks later, when Corey found out, it became the source of great strife for him. It had all come about by accident. Bree had finally told Corey one day about a funny event from before the comet strike. Then she told him of what happened to her after the comet strike. Particularly with Jason.

And then came the argument, and Corey was hurt, because he wanted children one day.

And Bree argued in return that there were no more laws, and no more Police. And Jason could do as he wished and that she alone suffered the consequences of that.

Corey confronted her gently on that point alone. He eventually wanted children, but could accept the fact that they might not be in his future now. But Bree felt ashamed, and useless.

Finally, in a tizzy she rushed out of the little garage they used as a home. In her haste and not being in her right mind, she didn’t hear the oncoming vehicle. Another group of people was driving through. Unfortunately, the car struck Bree as she darted across the street. The people were shocked, and kept on going, thinking Bree was just another Outliner.

Corey, who had been a few dozen yards behind, saw the whole thing. He dropped to his knees and wept in the streets over his third major loss. He began to feel that life was just all about what one had lost.

––-

The drive was uneventful, and Corey noticed the complete lack of zombies as he neared this city. He figured somebody must have been doing what he had been doing – hunting the zombies. Corey went to the center of the town and started spiraling out from there. In so doing, he managed to score a lot of .30-06 for his rifle. Much of it was hunting type ammo, but it would do. He had long since outfitted the rifle with an adjustable gas plug to allow it to shoot the hotter modern ammo.

Reflecting during the drive had been emotionally cleansing. It had been long enough now that Corey would gladly pursue another love interest if one presented itself. But he rarely thought of that anymore. Right now, his mind was focused on other things. Specifically, shelter for this evening.

He found an abandoned house that had little left inside it. It had been painted on the outside near the door in what looked like ancient symbols. The painting was done in two colors. Other houses nearby sported the same ‘decoration.’

Closing and locking doors downstairs, he set up a sleeping area upstairs. A sleeping area to Corey was a made bed, with gear on the far side of the door, and firearms and weapons within reach. He only had his M1, the .45 caliber M&P pistol, and his knife. His pack contained a change of clothes. He would hang up his dirty clothes in the car to dry, and get another change to put in his pack from the car tomorrow morning. It was a system that made things easy on him.

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 5:57:49 AM EDT
CHAPTER 7

Corey had seen a person one morning watching him. The man was older, and didn’t realize that Corey had spotted him. That day, Corey went about his business as always, and did not tip off the fact that he had seen the man. When Corey went inside for the evening, he watched from a window as the man drove off.

Corey moved into action. He quickly decided to give chase. He went to a car down the road and drove off in the last known direction the old man had been travelling. Soon enough, he saw the headlights and taillights. Turning his own car lights off, so as not to be spotted, Corey followed the man home.

Watching from afar for a while, Corey decided to come back early, and watch this man in his travels. Obviously, the man had found Corey. Perhaps the man had found others, too. Though unlikely, Corey had a gut instinct to try it. So he did.

Corey played the cat-and-mouse game with this older fellow for weeks. The weeks turned into months. This new town had been good for him. Following the old man, he learned numerous things.

About the monsters, Corey learned that the humanoid zombies had bred and the offspring was a terrible monster. These monsters were ruthless and cold-blooded killers. Corey called the outliners “great serpents” as a reference to the movies where a similar looking monster had been referred to as such.

Corey watched the old man several days when the oldster would watch where Corey had set up in this town. Of course, the man never did see Corey again, so he eventually gave up on it. Corey was curious the man never did try to go into the place Corey now called home. Perhaps there was a lesson in this. This man had survived by keeping his distance.

Corey followed the man and also saw they were not alone in this town. There was one family group that was doing quite well for themselves. They had a father, mother, and two boys. This family exhibited good discipline and thought things out very well. Too bad they never caught on that they were being watched. Of course, Corey was a bit curious as to why the old-timer watched them in the first place.

Later, Corey learned of another family. It was this one that caught his interest. This family, with a mom, three grown daughters, and a young son, were just barely making it. That was, until two of the daughters took up learning to shoot seriously. After that, they started getting more and more successful.

Many days, Corey would go and watch the ladies. He so wanted to speak to them, introduce himself. Maybe even get to know them better. He was attracted to the blonde, whom he figured was probably the youngest. She was closer to the young boy than the other two. She also was less serious in her studies of the firearm than her sisters. At least, Corey thought they were sisters.

Day after day, he would go about his own business, but the thought of other people being there, and not knowing about them, haunted Corey. He knew they would do best if they could form an alliance. Strength is in numbers, he knew it.

The family with the boys would be a tough nut to crack. They did not really need help. They would be fine no matter what. Perhaps, if he could bring to play the feminine help of the family with the grown girls, that might make the prospect of working together more appealing.

Yes, that’s what he would do.

So Corey decided to put a plan into action. He needed first to meet one of the young ladies. He decided on trying to meet the blonde. She was more wistful and might be more likely to be swayed by something masculine. And Corey was that.

Corey watched the “lady family” as he called it for many days. They had a pattern to them, and he could use that to his advantage. But it would take proper timing. They cleared entire neighborhoods in a span of a few days. He would do the same to throw them off balance. When the blonde stayed behind, as she now did more and more often, he would come up to her.

But what to say?

Corey realized he thought best when he was active. So he devised a plan and went into action. His plan revolved around what he would need. He needed to clear an entire neighborhood before the ladies got there. This meant he needed to see which way they were headed, and go up much farther ahead so as to have enough time.

It also meant he would have to keep a sharp eye on them, each morning, just in case they changed plans and did not go to the anticipated neighborhood. He didn’t want to get caught in the middle of clearing a neighborhood. They might alter course and then he’d have to start all over. And then they might be more wary of him.

So Corey watched and learned. He picked a neighborhood three down from where the ladies were currently working. Grabbing his M1, and a ton of ammo, he went to work. His work was not easy.

At the first house, he opened the door and kept his long rifle at the ready. Corey kept the weapon held high – just in case he had to fire at an unfriendly. He heard and smelled the zombies in the house. The stench was bearable, but only because he was used to it. He heard the sounds they made as they wandered in his direction. He went inside and moved toward the hall where he heard them, but he came to a realization.

A realization that left him very uncomfortable.

He had no angle to point the barrel down the hall before first stepping out into the hall. The rifle was too long. So he waited. Corey waited until the first of the biters came into view, then he blasted it. The .30-06 round did its work, plastering the biter into oblivion. The others kept coming… as they always did.

Corey blasted them each. One after another, he put them down in eternal silence. There were six biters in that house. They’d been a family: mom, dad, and four teenagers. Corey hated to see them go, but he wasn’t too upset about it. They’d have snacked on him if he let them. And then Corey’s awful conclusion came back to the front of his mind.

The M1 Garand, one of the finest rifles ever built, has its limitations. It was never designed for clearing houses. It was designed for picking off enemy combatants at over 500 yards.

Corey decided to change tactics for the next house. He shouldered the rifle and unholstered the pistol. He went to the next house and did again what he did the first time, only this time, he could pie off corners with ease. He found his first zombie in moments. It snarled at him – a large man in life. In death, he took six shots to put down. This worried Corey. About as much as the next zombie – a child zombie – that took three shots to put down.

He didn’t like the fact that the pistol was less accurate and less powerful, but it was much more maneuverable.

So in the first day, Corey cleared houses with his pistol. That, too, had its limitations. Almost every time, it took multiple shots to put down the zombies he’d see in most of the houses. The M1 could do that in a single shot, but wielding the large rifle indoors was too difficult to do repeatedly. And the lack of maneuverability meant that there were often times he’d turn a corner before being able to move his barrel into position.

So after the first day, Corey decided to get a carbine. He took a few hours and searched the houses he’d cleared that day. He was in luck! The fourth house had an AR15 carbine. It had only four mags, but Corey figured he could make that work. He’d carry more ammo in the truck, and reload when he got low.

It made for a good plan. On the second day, he cleared more than twice as many houses – 48 – as he had the first day (only 23). At that pace, it only took him two more days to clear the entire neighborhood. He did not stop to take things, unless there was something out in the open he had a good use for. He had no need to be thorough, for this was all part of his plan.

He would leave the plundering to the ladies. And hopefully, he would get to meet the blonde who so often hung back until the other two were finished.

Corey went back to observing the ladies as they went about their daily routines. It was many days before they would make their way to his already pre-cleared neighborhood. And by now, he had his plan worked out!

He would approach the blonde. He would say he heard the shooting and decided to find out what was going on. He would be nice, he would help, and he would show manners. No doubt, they’d already run into some of the rougher elements of people who were left. He would show himself trustworthy, and see where that would take him.

Corey decided he would give them a gift – food, most likely. Any show of generosity would help, he thought. He would make sure to communicate a few things, too. He wanted to appeal to the emotional side of her. He would talk about doing things that offered proof he was a good protector, and provider. He would tell her that he’d seen them moving in this direction, and that’s why he’d cleared the houses for them. He hadn’t gathered belongings, because he was not entirely sure what they would need.

So it was set. He would approach her.

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 5:58:23 AM EDT
CHAPTER 8

Chase was not a good man. Before the comet strike, he had been a career criminal. Never very violent, his specialty was theft. He did white-collar embezzlement, as well as theft of valuable goods. He had made quite a living doing so, and had never been caught. He would resign a company long before they got wind of him.

After the comet strike, he had survived by remaining elusive, just as he had when there was civilization. He hid in houses and buildings from the zombies. He stole what he needed. But everybody did that these days, and the owners were no longer alive, so it wasn’t really stealing.

Chase would generally avoid places with large concentrations of zombies. He never wanted to engage the enemy as much as avoid them. And one day, he found a small community of like-minded individuals.

––-

Molly, Tori, Lindsey, Debra, and Patricia had teamed up after the Comet strike. They had worked in the same office for the same company. They had a few other coworkers with them at first who had been infected in the aftermath. The five ladies quickly ran to other buildings to avoid them.

They repeated this practice from place to place. Over the years, they never saw evidence of other people. They got to the point of thinking they were the last people – possibly on the planet.

One day, that idea was shattered. A roving gang of people – mostly on motorcycles – drove by shooting things up. The women were afraid of guns and hid and watched. This gang seemed to be made up of three men, and about a dozen women. It was obvious that the women were staying with the men for protection for the most part. The way the men treated them was plain disgusting.

As the gang left, the five women decided to keep close, and be more careful. If they had been discovered, they likely would have been robbed, or worse. Most of he women feared worse.

Debra thought back to a time when she had been made a vulgar offer by a man named Jason. Right now, she wished she had taken him up on that offer. If he had lived, then he would have been a good protector for her. As vile as what he offered sounded, she was not opposed to dating him. If only he had offered nicely!

The five women kept close, and moved very little. They avoided zombies with a passion. They also avoided major highways and byways. They felt this was the best way to keep from getting attacked by the roving criminal element.

––-

One day, the women met the criminal element, but they did not know that was what he had been. Chase was a good looking man, and was refined in nature, speaking clearly and possessing a sharp mind. They took a liking to him shortly after he found them in the office building. He provided them with a measure of protection they had not had in the recent years.

Chase taught them some basics on shooting, and moving undetected from the zombies. He had them work together to gather clothes and food. They made a really good team. Having a central leadership helped the women a lot, as none of the ladies in this group had wanted to step forward and take the reins.

Soon, however, tensions rose. The women competed for the affections of Chase. He solved the problem by rotating whom he showed attention for. Each of the five had “a special day.” The special day rotated and for the time, everyone seemed happy.

One day, though, a newcomer was found. Debra knew immediately who it was. It was Jason. He was vile, but she had never been so glad to see him. After a few weeks of proving himself worthy to Chase, the decision was made to “split the women among them.”

None of the women wanted to do this. It was degrading and demeaning. However, what choice did they have? The men provided the protection and leadership that these women needed. Inside, Debra and a few of the others had wished they were stronger and able to take care of themselves. But they weren’t, and not a one of them stood up to the wretched desires of the men.

So a humiliating auction took place. Chase and Jason stood on opposite sides of the room, and selected which women were “theirs.”

Jason wanted to go first, so he could pick Debra. Chase agreed, and let Jason go first, in exchange for having the last two women for himself.

Jason chose Debra, as expected.

Chase chose Molly.

Jason selected Tori, simply based on looks.

Jason, by default, selected Lindsay and Patricia.

Slowly, they adjusted to these new arrangements. Jason and Chase became increasingly degrading of the women. The women never did anything to get away – each too frightened to do anything. And so they lived for several months. Until one evening.

That evening, there was a note attached to their door:
TOMORROW – GATHERING
MAIN MALL – 10:00 AM
PEOPLE MUST UNITE TO DEFEAT THE THREAT!

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 5:58:56 AM EDT
CHAPTER 9

Kacie Wheeler was daydreaming of a man. She had one thing on her mind. It rarely left her mind. This had been such a problem for her in the past. She had even made the mistake of having a child in the middle of high school. She loved her son,

“Again?!” was the outburst from Riley as she barged into the room. “I know it feels good to daydream, but every day?”

“Every day wouldn’t be enough. This is the second time I’ve daydreamed this morning!” Kacie chided jokingly. But they both knew she really wasn’t joking.

Riley was Kacie’s sister. Six years younger than Kacie, and the youngest sister in the family. Riley was followed into the room by Shelby. Shelby recently turned 19, and was three years the senior of the smart-mouthed Riley. Shelby was a bit quieter than the other two.

“Come on, Kacie, we need to go!” Shelby quietly urged, seeming to not to notice the look in Kacie’s eyes.

All three of the sisters wore a pistol at the belt. All three dressed in dark or drab clothing, and had hair tied back in a practical style. All three were slight of frame, and though each had her own distinct look, it was easy to tell they were sisters.

“Mom, we are going ‘shopping’!” Kacie called as she skipped out of the room.

“Be careful out there. Just the three of you going?” Gemma called back.

“That’s all. You’ve got Lance.” Came the reply.

Gemma was a young woman when she’d had Kacie, only eighteen at the time. Now, twenty-two years later, she was struggling to keep things under wraps. She no longer had Drew, her husband, thanks to the comet. Lance had been Kacie’s first son. Born when Kacie was 15, Gemma had decided to take an active role in helping to raise the boy to reduce the stress on her daughter. She reflected on her daughters and how they had turned out.

Kacie, the oldest, was now 22. She was bright, energetic, and outgoing. Thoughts of boys never left her mind, and at one point made her say and do things that were sometimes socially awkward. Since the comet strike, there had been far fewer boys, but that hadn’t had an effect on how often Kacie thought about them. Kacie was a bit of a natural at most things, catching on quickly, and getting proficient with most any course of study or physical endeavor.

Shelby was the quiet child. Others used to comment that it was a bit strange, as she had her older sister beat in the looks department – but that never entered the mind of the 19-year-old. Shy, but intelligent, she would rather learn something thoroughly than just get a passing understanding like Kacie would. She was shorter than her two sisters, and this bothered her a bit, as she didn’t understand that her stature actually lent to the picture of femininity with Shelby.

Riley was the youngest, and quite the tomboy. At age 16, she was much like her older two sisters – bright and energetic. She was more outgoing than Shelby, but not quite as much as Kacie. Riley was much more sarcastic than either, and had a rebellious streak. Easily as intelligent as her sisters, her specialty was really “street-smarts.” She understood people and situations better than most. When you boiled it all down, she was a bit manipulative, but never openly or with ill-will.

And so the three went shopping. They were after some more food and whatever else they could pick up and use. Thanks to Shelby, they used a very systematic way of searching – going to certain neighborhoods and working them until they had visited all the houses, then moving on to a different neighborhood. Riley drove, and her sisters were always happy to let her practice.

Of course, these days there were no drivers licenses, or police departments, or any of the sort. There weren’t really that many people left in general. The girls still held out hopes of one day finding guys to meet, but they weren’t overly optimistic.

They drove on to the marked Neighborhood. Shelby used spray paint to mark the entrance. Depending on the color and symbol, she could tell immediately if they had started, or already cleared a specific neighborhood. Riley steered the car into the neighborhood, taking the turn a bit faster than her sisters would have liked. It was a left turn, and with all three girls in the cab of a pickup, the other two slid a bit on the seat and squished Riley into the drivers’ side door. Point taken.

They stopped at the first house without a marking. Shelby had a similar marking for the houses, to let them know if they had found anything. Kacie bound up her blonde hair and tucked it under a cap. Shelby’s chestnut hair was already bound, as she sported a ponytail. Riley had her hair light brown hair, complete with natural highlights, up in a disheveled bun far before the ride had begun.

All three departed the truck and drew their weapons. Riley knocked on the door. No answer. They hadn’t expected one. In a smooth motion, Kacie had picked the lock and they were in.

Technique of clearing rooms was not something this group had studied. But they had developed a pretty good system that worked well for them. Today, the system would play itself out in normal fashion. One by one, each girl would open the door to a room and scan it.

Shelby did that.

The first room had a pair of biters in it. Shelby screamed and ran. Her sisters followed suit. They got to the outside and took cover, preparing themselves for the incoming zombie attack. Sure enough, they got what they expected. The two biters slowly made their way out toward the girls.

The girls opened fire.

Their pistols were less effective and less accurate than a good rifle might have been, but they made up for in volume what they lacked in accuracy or power. In moments, there were a couple dozen 9mm shells littering the overgrown yard. There were two dead zombies. There were three very nervous, but very happy girls. They took a few moments to reload their pistols. One would stand guard for the other two, and they rotated out.

Back in the house they went. Back to the same methods. Back to the same results. Only this time, there were no more surprises. House was clear. They searched, room by room, in a systematic effort to find anything that could be used. The three girls wore roughly the same size clothes. Their mom was a bit shorter, and a bit heavier – due to build, not due to age. Riley had almost grown to the same proportions, and she might have a year or two more to finish out.

Kacie and Shelby were much slimmer. They were still of feminine proportions, just not to the same extent of their youngest sister, nor their mother. They closer resembled the women of their father’s side of the family. This was important, because the zombie woman they’d just slain was of roughly the same build. Her clothes were the first things loaded into the truck.

They also salvaged a little food, and some ammo, too. Speaking of ammo, they had learned long ago to do a few things. First, revolvers were out. They did not hold enough ammo for inexperienced shooters, and were difficult to reload. Second was commonality. They all used the same pistol. This made for easier ammo raids, mag changes, and such. Also, knowing that if they needed another pistol, all of them had the same make and model, so manipulating the weapon would be the same.

The girls repeated this process for several more houses, eventually leading to a pretty good score on clothes and food. Ammo was still not very predominant in the area. They used the heavy things they found to weigh down the other belongings. The ride home was going along fairly uneventful, until they passed a certain hotel.

At that hotel, they saw fresh evidence of a fight with the zombies. There were bodies littered all over the place. The fight had spanned a hill and over into the shopping center behind them. The girls got out and explored, telling each other what they saw.

At the hotel itself, they saw a most unusual thing. There were more bodies, but these were not zombies. The girls didn’t know what they were. Kacie took out her digital camera and snapped a few photos to show her mom. These creatures were the outliners, though the girls didn’t know that at the time. Where these things had come from, they didn’t know. How they’d been killed was pretty obvious – it was the same people that had dispatched the biters.

Shelby was puzzled. The results of the fight looked like there had been several dozen people fighting against the zombies. There would have had to have been that many against these hordes numbering in the hundreds. But things didn’t add up. She only saw small groups of spent shells. Often, those groups signaled a band of people small in number – only a dozen, or fewer.

Riley helped look, but she could only find four different boot sizes in the mud. There was no way that only one small party of four had killed all these zombies. Shelby agreed. This was obviously the work of military trained individuals. There weren’t many of them, but it was more than just four – Shelby was sure of it.

Little did she know she was wrong, it had been just four people.

After a while, they gathered up and went on home. Again, on the way, and still on the opposite side of town from where they lived, they saw something that didn’t seem quite right. Some areas they had never cleared looked as though they had been cleared. New, freshly dead zombies lay strewn here and there. This time, though, the girls figured that this was the work of the same little unit that had killed the zombies near the hotel. Or, at worst, friends of that unit.

They decided to get the supplies home and tell their mother. Together, they would come up with a plan to find these other people. They figured that teaming together with others would help them in the long run. And Kacie was certain that there would likely be a cute, single guy. The others thought the same, but were less enthusiastic about saying as much.

––-

“Absolutely not, I forbid it!” Gemma said with authority.

“But mom!” Riley argued, “Just because they kill zombies doesn’t mean they will kill us. It’s totally different.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about them keeping you alive for their own pleasure. Or worse!”

“Mom, that’s silly. Why would anyone do that?” Kacie argued.

“These are bad times. Bad men are what’s left. I didn’t want to tell you girls that, but it’s the truth.” Gemma said.

“Mom, you’re just being over-protective, as always.” Riley said. “You can’t just stop and think normally for a moment, can you?”

“That’s not it, and that’s not a good tone, young lady!” Gemma retorted. “All I try to do is keep you girls and my grandson safe. That’s all.”

“Then trust us on this one,” Shelby said. “Let us find them. We will be careful, and observe them first. If they are bad, as you suggest, then we will see that and move away without ever being detected. If they appear to be regular people just trying to make their way in the world, then we will approach them, and see if they would like whatever help we could provide.”

Gemma looked down, mulling it all over. “Fair. With one exception. You girls find them and observe. Then you bring me out there to observe, too. Then, only then, when I say, we can go and meet them.”

“But you know you’ll just say they are mean!” Riley retorted.

In all fairness, Gemma thought, she is right. But I can’t let her know that. Gemma responded, “no, I’ll give them a chance. You have to trust me.”

“I’d rather trust a group of men who want to string me up. At least then, I know what I’m in for.” Riley said in a huff, walking out of the room.

“Mom, that’s fair. We will go tomorrow. When we find people, we will let you know.” Kacie said.

––-

“But how will we know where to look?” Riley asked.

The sisters were in a room, door locked, by themselves. Away from their mom and Lance, they could speak freely and without pretense.

“Easy, we take what we know from these people, and draw logical conclusions.” Shelby said.

Kacie was eying her drawer, but decided to wait a while before another round with her favorite device. “OK, so what do we know?”

“They obviously went hunting for the zombies.” Riley said. “Nobody would get ambushed by that many biters.”

Shelby was stunned. Riley was absolutely correct, but this was something Shelby hadn’t figured out yet.

“You are right. So we can assume they will try to hunt again,” Shelby said. “Our search for them should start with large known hordes of zombies. We should probably start on that side of town again, too.”

“Where will those hordes be?” Kacie asked.

“Near shopping centers. The comet hit on a Saturday. Most people were home, or out doing something. Places that used to be well populated are now well populated by zombies.” Riley said.

“Right,” Shelby started. “And I think we should look for shopping centers near that one. Chances are if they are trying to hunt zombies, they will do so in a calculated fashion – like we search houses for things.”

“Shelby, only you do stuff like that. Nobody else thinks that way.” Kacie said.

“Maybe. But you agreed the way we do it – systematically – is far easier to keep up with. It’s not an intelligence thing, its an ‘easy’ thing.” Shelby responded.

“Let’s go there tomorrow. We need to stay hidden, so we should leave early and make sure to scout out places on foot.” Riley suggested.

The others agreed.
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:00:11 AM EDT
CHAPTER 10

Tomorrow came and went. And the girls did not find the people they were looking for. Kacie and Shelby never really gave up on the prospect, but success was not quick in coming. Oh, they looked and looked, and occasionally one would see a glimpse here or a flash there, but nothing concrete.

Riley, be a bit more sarcastic in nature, gave up on finding other people fairly easily. The day after looking for the other people, Riley and her sisters were in another area, looking for whatever they could find. Riley found a room in a house that fascinated her. She and her sisters had found guns and ammo before, but never quite like this.

That particular house had belonged to one Alfred Clark. He had been an apparent gun-nut. He had one of almost everything, and two of many things. Though her sisters made fun of her, these guns caught her eye. So much so, that she actually took the time to go acquire another truck and load it up with all the guns and ammo she could carry.

She also took books and manuals. These would be fuel for her fire. Her desire was to get a good gun, and get good at using it. She could handle her pistol, but she had always had a feeling in the back of her mind that she could do better. What she didn’t know was that her sister, Shelby, had taken an interest, too. Particularly in the books about the guns.

Kacie was interested. But she had many interests. But she would gladly follow along to learn whatever she could. Especially if it might help her and her family. Her dedication, or lack thereof, would be evident soon.

Riley and Shelby dove into the books once they got home. They learned about the guns they had taken. They learned some basics on how to operate the machines. They did drills with the empty guns for hours each day. Kacie would join them on occasion, but not to a point as to be able to keep up with them in the skill department.

Riley and Shelby quickly chose the AR15 platform, and selected some carbines accordingly. They chose red-dot optics and over the course of several weeks, they learned how to sight in the optics. They learned the weapons via drills. They would change empty mags time and time again. They would run the bolt, load and unload, and they learned a bit about shooting positions, as well.

Finally, they practiced with .22 rifles in their neighborhood. They got to the point of being able to shoot man-sized targets in the body or head at 100 yards with the .22’s. At that point, they set up man-sized targets at 100, 200, and 300 yards and practiced shooting them daily.

From time to time, particularly when she was lagging behind her younger sisters in the skill department, Kacie would make snide comments at their training. She always said all they would ever do is clear houses, so why train with the rifles?

Then the day came. Finally, Shelby and Riley felt good enough with the rifles to take them out as the girls went “shopping.” Kacie had come to accept the fact by this time, and was a bit happy that they would have more firepower along on this trip.

During this time, the girls had run into more and more of the monsters, not just the zombies. The outliners were hard to hit with a pistol, and didn’t always go down with just a few shots. And they were armed with sharp teeth, claws, and a barbed tail.

So the girls went to a neighborhood and began as always. It didn’t take them long to realize the houses they searched, had already been searched by other people. They were cautious, but saw no signs of the search being recent. So they went in, house by house. Everywhere that had been searched also had dead zombies.

This was the work of someone doing just like they did. Still, this gave Riley and Shelby a chance to practice their new skills of house clearing. As they did, Kacie kept getting in the way. Finally, after half a day of Kacie messing things up, they persuaded her to stay behind as they cleared the houses.

This pattern repeated itself, though they did not find more neighborhoods that had already been cleared for a while. The next day, they went to a new neighborhood and got their first live practice.

They came up to the first house. Riley was in front, “stay behind me. I’ll take the doors on the right.”

“I’ll take the ones on the left,” Shelby responded.

“What will I do?” Kacie asked.

“Stay quiet and stay behind us!” Shelby said.

Kacie did not like being told what to do by her younger sister.

In they went. Riley cleared the first room. Then they went for the hall. Kacie sprinted ahead, getting in the line of sight for the other two.

“Kacie! Get back, we were pointing our guns that way!” Riley yelled.

Kacie realized the folly of her ways, but it was too late. She heard the growl, and then had to run back the way she came as she was being chased by a biter. As soon as she got past her sisters’ muzzles, shots rang out.

The biter went down, and another two appeared. In a methodical fashion, the two girls and their carbines mowed down the danger.

But the work wasn’t done. Riley and Shelby went back to work, sweeping the rooms, and making sure there were no more surprises. Kacie just cowered in the front room in a corner farthest from where the dead zombies had fallen.

“Next time, don’t get in the way. You might accidentally get shot.” Riley said to her older sister.

Eventually, Kacie would just sit back and wait for her sisters to clear a house, then she would rummage through as they would clear more houses.

This became a good routine for them. Kacie would stay behind while the other two cleared houses. Though it left Kacie somewhat exposed, there was no real danger – Riley and Shelby would get to the danger first.

And this went on and on for several neighborhoods.

Until one day…

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:00:44 AM EDT
CHAPTER 11

Kacie was sitting in the truck. Her sisters were inside a house several hundred yards away, clearing it. House-clearing today had been easy. All the zombies had already been shot, but nobody had taken the stuff in the houses! Kacie and her sisters figured somebody was just out, culling the biters in general. Whoever it was, they already had enough clothes and food – because all of that was left behind.

Kacie figured whoever had cleared this house had plenty of supplies. This meant he was probably a good shot, and very good at gathering and keeping whatever he needed. She was sure it was a man, because the girls had seen man-sized muddy boot prints in the houses. He had been all business, and not even stopped to wipe off his feet before entering the house. This was a sign of a masculine man.

Kacie was already in love with him, and she hadn’t even seen him, yet.

She was fantasizing about what he looked like – tall, dark hair, ruggedly handsome – when she was startled from a knock at the door of the truck. This was really concerning, as the window was rolled down! Kacie turned with a jump and saw a man. He wasn’t bad-looking, either. And he was smiling.

She smiled back.

“Sorry to give you a scare, but I didn’t see you until I was even with the truck,” he said.

“No problem,” she replied.

He was armed – he had an older-looking rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol in a holster on his belt. She didn’t blame him for being armed. She had a pistol, too.

He was dressed in regular clothing, and a ball cap. His dark hair was a bit long and curled out from under the rim all the way around his head. He hadn’t shaved in a couple of weeks, at best. He had enough beard to look rugged, but not too much. Kacie kept her gaze on him as he continued.

“What are you doing out here alone? Waiting on somebody?” He asked.

“Yeah, my sisters. They are just up ahead.” She said.

Kacie wanted to be afraid, but this kind man’s smile kept her feeling at ease.

“Your big sisters leave you behind?”

“Actually, I am the big sister. My little sisters are the better shooters. I just go into the houses afterwards and…” she started, before he cut her off.

“… you go in and check for salvageables.” He said.

“Yeah. How’d you know?” Kacie asked.

“I saw you doing the same thing a few days ago. It was the neighborhood back that way,” he pointed. “I figured you might be coming this way, so I took the liberty of shooting the zombies before you got here. I hope the help was appreciated.”

He kept smiling, and Kacie was immediately liking the fact that he’d looked out for her already.

“Thank you. We do appreciate it. My sisters really appreciate it. I should tell them.” She said.

“We will, in a moment. First things first. What’s your name?” he asked.

“You first.”

“Corey. Corey Gross.” He said.

“I don’t think you’re gross, I think you’re kind of cute.” Kacie flirted. “I’m Kacie Wheeler. In the house are my sisters. Come on, I’m sure they would want to meet you.”

They went up to the house where Shelby and Riley were looking for monsters.

“None in this one, either.” Shelby announced as they came out and saw Kacie.

“Yeah. Looks like all of the zombies have been wiped out.” Said Riley. “But I think we should still be careful, just in case. Who’s your friend, Kacie?”

Normally, Riley would have been a bit more unsure of a newcomer, but Kacie was standing really close to him and smiling as though she knew him.

“Corey Gross,” he said as he shook hands with the other two girls.

“Corey here saw us coming and already shot the zombies.” Kacie announced with a smile.

“Why would you do that?” Shelby asked.

“Because, I saw you all doing the same thing the next neighborhood over. I heard the gunshots and had to investigate. There you all were. Doing what you were doing today. So I decided to do this as a show of goodwill. You don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve seen a live human being who wasn’t trying to eat my face!” Corey said it all with a smile and with a bit of enthusiasm.

Riley and Shelby smiled at the explanation. “Thank you.” Shelby said.

Kacie saw the exchange, and immediately put her arm around Corey’s arm. She was clearly staking her territory with the younger girls. “Then Corey saw me and came up and introduced himself… telling me what he’d done here. I figured you two would want to know so you can save on some work.”

“I also wanted to help you ladies get everything loaded that you wanted to take. Many hands make light work.” He said.

A roaming pack of dogs passed by. Corey thought of how mangy and scrawny they seemed. Getting food must be tough for the dogs, as well. Likely more so as the biters and outliners were carnivorous and probably stressed their food supply, too.

“We’ll take you up on that,” said Riley.

Corey helped, and the girls filled the truck much faster than normal. All the while, they all talked and told each other about their past, and how they had survived the comet. Corey told them about his family and his losses. The girls told him about the loss of their dad, and what he had meant to them. Despite Kacie’s protests, her sisters told of her son, and how their mother had raised Lance as her own.

When finished, the conversation turned different.

“Corey, why don’t you come over for dinner?” Kacie said.

“That would be a great idea!” Shelby agreed.

“I’d like to, if it’s OK with you.” Corey said.

“I think Kacie would love to have you come over… of course it’s OK with her…” Riley said.

“My car is just around the corner. I’ll follow you.” Corey said.

“I’ll ride with Corey, just to make sure he doesn’t get lost.” Kacie said.

“And keep him company, we know,” said Riley with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Corey and Kacie walked over to his car. Kacie’s attention was squarely on him. He knew for sure at this point that he had more than just a passing shot at her. Once in the car, Corey pulled in behind Riley, who was driving their truck. He followed her lead.

“Can you drive with one hand?” Kacie asked.

“Yeah…” Corey responded, with a bit of uncertainty.

She grabbed his hand and held it in hers. “Good,” she said. “Because I’ve not held a man’s hand in a long time.”

Corey reflected absently that he missed the feminine touch. Even an act as simple and harmless as holding hands had a great effect on him. He felt more alive. He was energized by the thrill of being wanted by another human.

––-

Dinner was over. Corey had stayed a little late, talking to the Wheelers. He really liked little Lance. He liked them all. Kacie had walked him out to his car and ‘made out,’ as she called it, with him for a few moments before letting him leave. It wasn’t like what he had once known as ‘making out’ – this version only featured kissing. The version Corey used to call ‘making out’ had a much more involved set of activities.

Corey was really enjoying the attention. It satisfied a need he’d had. Of course, he had wanted to do more than kiss. And he was certain Kacie would have been more than OK with that. But Corey figured that would come in good time, too, so he took it slow and decided to be the gentleman. Besides, keeping her waiting just a bit might play with her mind a bit.

Corey had been surprised to find out that she was 22. He was even more surprised to find out he was closer in age to her mother, Gemma, than to Kacie. More surprisingly, the other two sisters were younger. He had figured from observing their behavior, that the other two were older than Kacie. He was wrong. He was still confused – why then, had he wanted to target what he felt was the youngest of the three?

He turned it over and over in his head as he drove home. After the drive, he just had more questions than answers, so he really didn’t notice the paper taped to his door. Corey just went straight inside and crashed for the night.

On the other side of town, Kacie had seen the paper taped to her door. It must have been put there while they were having dinner, she figured. But by whom? She opened it, and it read:

TOMORROW – GATHERING
MAIN MALL – 10:00 AM
PEOPLE MUST UNITE TO DEFEAT THE THREAT!

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:01:39 AM EDT
CHAPTER 12

The Blakelys were at the mall. They had been there since 7 am. There was nothing. Nothing to see on the outside. No movement on the inside. So, at 9:45, Kevin had given his family the signal to move. They entered the mall cautiously. Working as a team, and covering for one another, they kept carbines at the ready just in case this was a trap.

––-

Gemma had been reluctant to bring Lance and herself, but Kacie had convinced her to join them at the mall. Riley and Shelby had AR15’s at the ready when they arrived. As they pulled up, they saw a family of four moving into the mall. This family was heavily armed, too. They entered with caution, and Shelby suggested that she and her sisters, mother, and nephew do the same.

Gemma had argued that perhaps that family meant trouble. Riley had reasoned that having one younger boy meant they had no ill will. Besides, what if these were the folks that had printed out and distributed the notes to people?

––-

Corey woke up late. He had worked harder the day before than he had in quite some time. He’d dreamt all night of lovely Kacie and his thoughts never strayed far from her. He was milling around outside his garage residence, when a sheet of paper caught his eye. It was taped to his front door. He grabbed it and read it:

TOMORROW – GATHERING
MAIN MALL – 10:00 AM
PEOPLE MUST UNITE TO DEFEAT THE THREAT!

He looked at his clock inside – 9:55! Shit! He was late!

––-

Kacie had recognized the father of the family as they drew near. That was Kevin. Kevin was the father of her son, Lance. Of course, he didn’t know her as Kacie. She’d used her middle name as an alias with him so long ago. He knew her as Rene. She was embarrassed, but she could not tell her family, so she trudged on ahead.

Of all the people in the world who had died, and become zombies after the comet strike. Then of all the people who had been killed by the zombies, or more recently by the outliners. And of all the people to actually be here this day! Kacie’s gaze dropped to the floor.

To his credit, Kevin played along.

“Hello, there. Are you the folks who organized this?” Kevin said as he saw Gemma and the girls and Lance walk up.

His eyes met Kacie’s and, for an instant, a curious look crossed his face. Kacie’s eyes darted left and right. None of her family had caught it. Her secret was safe. She did notwant her sisters knowing she got pregnant by an older man.

“No. We got a letter saying meet here.” Shelby said.

“We did, too,” Megan responded.

“I guess there will be more,” Kevin suggested. “Hi, we are the Blakely’s. I’m Kevin. This is Megan, Shane, and Doug.”

Kevin pointed each of his family as he introduced them.

“Good to meet you. We are the Wheelers. My mother, Gemma; my sisters, Kacie and Riley; and my nephew Lance,” Shelby said.

“Nice to meet you.” Kevin and his family nodded to them.

Nobody was quite comfortable enough to put their rifles down, but most of them had been slung by now.

“So I guess we wait here until the person that invited us shows up,” Doug said.

“Makes sense,” said Gemma. “I wonder who it is?”

Another group of people, maybe seven of them in all, was walking up. Maybe they were the ones that called everybody together, Gemma thought. This group had a few guns, but not like the Blakely family. Kacie realized Corey was not there. She wondered if he had received a message, too?

They introduced themselves: Jason, Chase, Debra, Tori, Molly, Lindsey, and Patricia.

At that moment, the skylight was smashed by a large object. None of them knew what it was. It was so massive, it covered the entire skylight. There was a loud thud, and it sounded as if the building had been run into by another building. All present started screaming, or drawing their rifles.

It was no use. From each of the two side entrances, hundreds of outliners advanced. Kevin and his sons started firing on the hordes. They took out the closest monsters first, and worked their way back. Megan joined the fight, and the family formed up quickly. They fought two to each side, and back to back.

Gemma pulled Lance into the fountain nearby and hi as the bullets started flying. Kacie, Riley, and Shelby all started firing. They moved carefully to the fountain. Riley took the right and Shelby took the left. They fired on the outliners, virtually alongside the Blakely family.

Kevin looked all around, and found no way out. He swore in disgust.

Kacie looked up at the object that had crashed through the skylight. It was opening up.

––-

Corey raced to the mall. It was a few minutes after 10:00 and he didn’t want to miss the meeting. When he arrived, he immediately noticed something was wrong. There was a strange object on top of the mall. It was circular in shape – it looked like three quarters of a full pie. There were four long cylindrical projections from one end of the object. The thing was immense – almost as large as the mall itself.

Corey got out of his car and climbed to the roof of a nearby strip mall. He wanted to watch before he went inside. Then, just then, he saw something that made his heart sink. There below was the Wheeler’s truck. There was a good chance Kacie was in there!

––-

“Cease your fire.” Said the being that came out of the device on top of the skylight.

Whatever it was, it was not human.

Given the dire odds, Kevin and his family complied with the command. Seeing this, the Wheeler’s stopped firing, too. The few others that had met there stopped shooting, as well.

Several of the little grey things walked out of a platform with a rotating wall. The wall rotated around to form an entryway into the cylindrical device that extended down from the object on the roof. These little grey beings were roughly humanoid, with large eyes, but small noses and mouths. Two of them flanked the one that had spoken. They had strange devices, eerily similar to guns, in their long slender hands.

Their garments were strange, with odd patterns and decoration on them. Shelby wondered if the garments were uniforms. Shelby also noticed that the outliners had stopped attacking. She heard a distinct clicking sound, followed by a buzzing sound. As she took it all in, the one in the front spoke again, is its strange accent.

“My guardians have far more advanced weapons than you. They will shoot you if you try to resist. Put down your weapons.” The thing said in its raspy voice.

There were looks left and right. Kevin decided to check and see if it was a bluff, “those don’t look like they could harm us. No more than our weapons can harm you.”

The creature to the left fired on one of the people to the left that Shelby had seen earlier. His gun shot a bolt of brilliant light. It happened instantly, and the man he shot, Jason, went down in a heap. He was scorched through and through. The people around him cried out, and threw down their weapons. Kevin and his family reluctantly lowered their rifles to the floor.

Kacie realized she was behind most of the others and she had an angle to move into a large department store. She knew those big stores normally had doors to the outside. Maybe she could ease out and make a break for it.

––-

Corey had dialed in his range on the M1 sights and was ready to blast away, if he needed to. He figured discretion might be the better part of valor at the time, so he waited to fire until he knew exactly what he was dealing with.

––-

Kacie had edged the door open so very quietly. The group with Chase and the women were being taken hostage first. She had watched these alien beings take them into the cylinder, the doors shut, and the alien was gone for a moment. When he returned, Kacie was almost out the door.

Then Lance saw her.

“Kacie!” he cried out. “Don’t leave me!”

Kacie ran. She hated leaving them, but she figured that if she got out, then she might get some help. Maybe Corey would know what to do.

Inside, the Tzsik clicked and buzzed. It was the outliner equivalent of “go get her and bring her back – dead or alive!”

And outliners moved in unison.

Kacie ran fast and reached to door. It was locked. She pushed at it for a moment, then realized outliners were coming through the door at the end where she had escaped from! They were moving fast toward her.

Not having time to spare, Kacie took a mannequin and used it to smash the glass window at the front of the store. Out she ran. Kacie was cut by glass shards on the way out. She ran and at the same time she checked her wounds. Nothing serious. She knew the outliners would be in hot pursuit, so she didn’t dawdle.

––-

Corey watched as Kacie burst from the building. She swerved her course and started running toward her truck. As fast as she was moving, Corey figured there was trouble.

Sure enough, trouble burst from the glass window that Kacie had emerged through only seconds ago. Trouble was outliners. Dozens of them. They were right at three hundred yards away. They kept pouring out of the glass window, until there were hundreds.

Corey switched over to the AR15. He had more ammo in it, and he knew it was just as good for the outliners, from what he had seen. The Carbine rang out, over and over again. Each shot put down a monster. And then ten more monsters leapt over it and kept up the chase on Kacie.

Kacie was running toward her car, and had just remembered she did not have the keys! Then shots rang out, from above her and to the left. She looked around and saw outliners going down here and there She veered and ran toward the gunshots. Whoever was shooting was not shooting at her!

Corey kept the hordes off of her. As Kacie ran near, he told her to run around the right side of the building. It was the long way around, but it gave him a tactical advantage. The outliners would follow her, and when she came up the ladder, he could get them both down the other ladder on the left. It would be around the last corner from where they would be. They would follow in a linear fashion, and he would escape out the other side.

Kacie ran around, and saw the ladder almost immediately. She climbed up. As she did, the demons came around the corner and saw her climbing. They followed. Corey had come over to the place where the ladder crested over the side of the building. To his right was the second ladder.

Kacie was climbing quickly.

Corey had a thought. He pulled the multi-tool from his belt, and used the pliers to start undoing the bolts that held the ladder on. He worked feverishly. His hands hurt with the effort, and more than once he scraped skin from the back of his knuckles.

Kacie cleared the top. The outliners were at the bottom of the ladder. One grabbed on and started to climb.

“They’re coming up!” Kacie screamed.

“Take these!” Corey said, handing the plies to Kacie. “Turn counter clockwise!”

“I know – lefty-loosey!” She said.

She took the pliers and started to work. Corey took the AR15, and started shooting over the edge. He put down outliner after outliner. With each one shot, it became more difficult for the others to get to the ladder. The dead were in their way.

Corey looked down and saw Kacie was not getting anywhere. “I can’t hold them off forever!” He yelled.

“I’m trying. I just can’t move this one!”

Corey gave her the rifle. “Here – point it at them. The red dot is where you hit.”

He took the pliers and started working on the bolt. Kacie had tightened it down! He worked again. Kacie started firing, right next to him. He was nearly done with the first bolt… again… when Kacie’s rifle went ‘click.’

She pulled the trigger again and nothing.

“You’ve got to get a new mag!” Corey said, pointing to the bag of ammo.

Kacie fumbled around with the bag. Corey got the first bolt out. She tried to get a magazine free of the bag. She was taking way too long. Corey was irate at this point.

“Give it to me!” He snapped.

He took the AR, then slapped a mag in and charged it. Running back to the side, he shot the first three outliners down. The first of them had almost made it to the top! Once he got them down to the ground, he handed the gun to Kacie.

Corey went back to work on the second bolt. His hands hurt, and the blood from the scrapes was flowing freely by now. But he worked with a renewed focus. Kacie fired and fired. He nearly had the bolt out when she went empty again. This time, she knew what to do with the mag, and though clumsily, she did manage to get the rifle reloaded.

It did take a moment, and Corey used his sidearm to blast a few outliners to keep them from getting to close.

––-

Inside, the Tzsiks had taken the Wheelers up to their main holding deck. The Wheelers were last. Kevin looked all about him for a chance. Not with the blaster gun that the Tzsik had. Not with the hordes of outliners to either side. This was not looking good.

––-

Corey finally did it! The bolt came loose. He pushed Kacie out of the way and shoved the ladder out and away from the building. It fell backwards, trapping an outliner under it. The rest tried leaping at Corey and Kacie. They were growing agitated that they cold not get to their prey.

Corey grabbed his ammo packs and his M1. He signaled for Kacie to follow. They went over to the other ladder and went down, Corey first.

“Shhh!” he said quietly. “If they hear us, they will kill us both.”

Kacie nodded.

Silently, they went down the ladder, and out into the main parking lot. They could hear the snarling and hissing of the outliners behind the strip mall building.

––-

Kevin marched with his family in disgust. He was being taken captive. The Tzsiks were joining him as they all went up the cylinder into the main holding area. The one alien kept a rifle trained on Kevin. He forced them down a hall, then through another corridor to a place where there were bars everywhere.

Kevin saw immediately that these were jail cells. He spotted the Wheelers, and the other people, too. And he also thought of Kacie. He hoped she had escaped with her life.

––-

Corey and Kacie darted across the parking lot. Corey found a part of the mall, between the main entrance and the entrance of a department store, and spotted a ladder in the crevice. He moved in that direction, Kacie in tow. Up the ladder they went.

All the while, there was a loud rumbling sound that was growing. As the intensity grew, the rumbling was joined by a high pitched whirring sound.

“I think this is a space craft. And I think it’s getting ready to take off!” He yelled over the building roar.

“What are we going to do?” Kacie asked, looking at the large craft all around them.

Corey pointed to the cylinder that was injected into the skylight of the mall. “Is that how they came in?”

“Yes!”

“Then that’s how we stow aboard!” he said.

Corey and Kacie ran to the cylinder as it was lifting up, out of the skylight. There was a ledge on it, about as long and as wide as a man. Corey leapt over to it in a single bound without breaking stride.

Kacie followed, and almost fell as she lost her footing. Quick thinking by Corey as he reached out with the butt of his M1 to offer to Kacie as a grip. She took it, and Corey pulled her to safety.

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:02:16 AM EDT
CHAPTER 13

Corey and Kacie were crowded on the small area. As the cylinder raised into the rest of the craft, it rotated. Corey was worried they would be crushed as it fit into place, but that did not happen. Instead, the cylinder went up and in, and turned over to it’s side once in the ship. Corey saw the danger. The place they were in was part of a latching mechanism.

As the cylinder rotated into place, Corey took Kacie’s hand and pulled her with him as he jumped off. He had waited until they were as close to the floor as possible before jumping. They scrambled over to an outcropping of metal and used that as concealment from any possible alien crewmembers.

––-

Kevin and Megan were locked into a cell together. He looked around and saw all the cells on the floor. Gemma was locked in with Chase. Lance was in a cell by himself next to them. Others were locked in cells in twos. Where possible a male and a female in the cell together. The exception was Debra, Tori, Molly, Lindsey, and Patricia were all in one cell.

Kevin watched as Shane was forced into a cell with Shelby. Then as Doug was forced into a cell with Riley. Kevin was a bit curious why these living arrangements were being carried out by the Tzsiks.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Our study of your species has indicated that there is a correlation between lower stress levels and copulation. We put males and females together so they may copulate. This helps deal with the stress of being held captive while we study you.” The alien responded. “And we also are looking for specific genetic crosses from your offspring. It is relevant to our interests.”

“But there’s more to it than just being locked into a cell with someone!” Megan protested.

“On the contrary, we have found that a pair, given privacy, cannot resist the urge in these conditions. The longest delay we have ever seen was 34,566,528 seconds – just over 40 earth days. The young one there might be too young, but his pheromone levels indicate he is ready.” The alien said.

With that, walls came up on the inside and outside of every set of bars. And suddenly, everything was quiet.

––-

Corey and Kacie used stealth to move around. They crept from shadow to shadow in the massive structure that was the ship’s main hangar. In the middle, there was a smaller craft – about the size of a large car. It looked like a vehicle. Corey figured it to be a smaller transport. Possibly a scout ship, or a fighter. Eventually, they made their way around and out into a hall.

The hall was short, and ended in what looked like an elevator. Inside, Corey noted there was only one button. He figured there was only one other level. He pressed the button. The doors closed and the elevator began to move. A moment later, the movement stopped.

“Be ready for anything!” Corey said in a subdued tone.

He shouldered his M1. Kacie readied her AR15.

The door opened.

Nothing.

This was another hall, only this one was much longer than the first. It was also very straight – over 400 yards in length, if Corey’s estimate was correct. He could vaguely tell that the ship was moving, but it was barely noticeable.

If anyone or anything came out of the door ahead, Corey and Kacie would be spotted. That being the case, Corey kept his sights straight ahead – his M1 already dialed in for the distance. Kacie did the same, but he doubted that she could make this kind of shot. She lacked the skill, and she was using a carbine. That was not a good combination.

As they walked on, ever so cautiously, Corey noticed there were multiple doors coming up on the right and on the left. He exchanged glances with Kacie. He figured the only way to find Kacie’s family was to explore all the doors. Eventually, he knew, they would also find the alien captors. Then there would be a fight. But that was going to happen anyways, so he detached his mind from that, as it was inevitable.

Corey and Kacie started with doors on the right. They mostly looked like labs. They were smaller and spaced much closer than the doors on the left. They found nobody in door after door, room after room. There were dozens more on the right. So they decided to backtrack a bit, and check the door on the left. It was the only one for another hundred yards or so.

Bingo.

They found the holding cells. At first, they did not know what they were looking at, but they went in, since the room was so big, and they could not see everything in it. Corey couldn’t quite make out what the curtains were, or what they did. Kacie didn’t have that problem. She just walked right up to the curtain, grabbed a handful, and moved it aside. In doing so, she revealed the cage with an older couple inside.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m Kacie – that’s Corey. We are here to find our family. They were just brought on board a few minutes ago. Do you know where they are?”

“They are across – over there,” the man said, pointing. “I’m Gordon. My wife Bonnie is in here with me. We were taken from our home some time ago – maybe a few days ago? Will you let us free, too?”

“Of course,” Corey said. “Where are the keys?”

“The Tzsiks use a series of buttons, on that wall over there,” Gordon said, pointing to the wall.

Corey rushed over and hit all the buttons. No restraint, no trying to figure it out. He hit them all. And all of the curtain barriers started lifting away. Corey stared for a moment, and saw the people trapped in the cells. Gordon and his wife Bonnie were in one cell. The Blakely’s were in another. More people, here and there. Almost all in pairs. Corey wondered why.

Kacie ran to the cell with her mom in it, and pushed the door open. The rest of the people realized the doors were no longer locked, and they all pushed their doors open, too. There were twenty people in all.

Suddenly, a high-pitched zipping sound was heard, and Chase dropped like a rock. His chest was burst open and burned to a point of cauterization all around. The internal organs were gone, too, in the vaporized, gaping hole. Gemma screamed.

Kacie and her sisters screamed. Some of the others either screamed or shouted obscenities. All but Corey. Corey looked around, and things seemed to be happening in slow motion for him. He snapped his M1 up to his shoulder. It seemed to take just a bit longer than normal to do, but everybody else was moving so very slowly that the motion was likely faster than they could have seen, he figured.

In the same motion, Corey spun toward the open door. If they were to be attacked, the attacker would have had to come through that door. There were no other entrances. Next to the door, he saw a Tzsik. It was pointing a gun at someone, but not at Corey. Corey put his sight on the alien.

The alien fired. Corey realized he was not the target, and so he fired. Gray and green bits of alien flesh and blood were blown out the back of the alien as the .30-06 bullet went right through and on it’s merry way – probably to come to rest in some metal wall in another part of the ship, Corey thought.

The Tzsik dropped to the ground, motionless. It dropped its weapon as it fell. Corey moved quickly to the body of the thing and kicked its gun away. He put a second bullet through the head of the alien. As he did, he heard alarms going off in other parts of the ship. At this point, he realized he also heard crying and screaming from behind him.

Corey spun back the other way, M1 ready to rock and roll. He saw no threat, so he lowered the muzzle of the rifle. What he did see were people crying. Megan, Doug, and Shane Blakely were on their knees, weeping at the spot where Kevin had fallen.

Kevin had no head. The stump of his neck was cauterized off. To the left of the Blakely’s, there were others mourning the loss of one of theirs. Corey looked around and saw that Gemma and her daughters and Lance were all huddled together. None of them were hurt. That was good. Corey noticed the look on Kacie’s face as she realized what had happened to Kevin.

The alarms were still going off, and Corey realized this gave them only a limited amount of time.

“Everybody, get a weapon and let’s go. There will be more of them coming, and we have got to fight them!” Corey yelled out. Gordon had made his way over to the fallen alien Tzsik and commandeered the dropped weapon. He turned around, smiling, mouth open as he was about to say something to his dear Bonnie, when the awful happened.

Everybody was looking at Gordon when a blast came from his abdomen. The blast was bright, and devastating. Gordon actually looked down at the 10-inch hole in his stomach area. The look on his face was serene, almost accepting of the death that was imminent. He hobbled away, toward the love of his life, Bonnie.

Gordon tossed her the gun. There was a tear in his eye. Bonnie’s eyes were flowing with tears, but she made no sound.

“Get those bastards!” Gordon said to Bonnie as he slumped to the floor.

She wept, and turned toward the aliens that were walking into the room. She fired the weapon, missing entirely. The aliens had been shooting others. Gemma was down. Several of the people Corey did not know were down, too.

And Megan was charging the attacking aliens. There were six of them. One of them went down as Megan neared, and she wondered why. And she wondered why she heard almost nothing. And she saw the alien that went down had a hole in him, and his flesh and blood were blown out the back. She figured Corey or Kacie had shot him.

Megan neared one of the aliens, who was busy frying the people to the left, that Megan did not know. She kicked him hard and he went down hard. Megan, though of average size, was considerably larger and stronger than the Tzsiks, who were just a bit bigger than a third-grader. Megan proceeded to beat the tar out of that Tzsik. The physical contest was one-sided.

Up until the point when another Tzsik put his weapon to Megan’s head and pulled the trigger.

Kacie, Riley, and Shelby screamed when they saw their mother drop to the ground. Kacie ran at the remaining aliens, firing the AR15 as she ran. The Tzsik that Megan had been physically beating into the ground was slow to rise, and Kacie shot him while running in stride.

The .223 round was even more impressive, in terms of damaged caused, to the small-bodied Tzsiks than the larger M1’s .30-06 round. The AR15 shot had virtually disintegrated the body of the alien. It was blown to bits like some varmint hit with the same round.

Meanwhile, Corey had taken out two of the other aliens with his rifle. There were only two left. Corey heard strange clicking sounds as the aliens spoke to each other. They darted out of the room, and to the left. More clicking sounds. It sounded like they were just outside the doorway, using the wall as cover.

Was it cover or concealment? Corey was not sure. But he knew a good way to find out. He estimated where the alien’s bodies might be, took aim at the wall and fired – about three feet to the left of the opening of the door, and about three feet off the ground. He saw a small bit of splatter and heard a high-pitched clicking scream of sorts.

He must have guessed just right – and that wall was concealment, not cover!

Corey and some of the others went toward the door. Corey fired again at a spot he figured might be the hiding place of the second Tzsik. Nothing. He fired again and heard the ping of his empty clip hitting the floor. He reloaded quickly.

At that moment, a group of outliners rounded the corner and flooded into the room. Kacie knelt to the ground and fired her AR15. She shot monster after monster. The others scrambled. Riley got an alien gun, and she, Shelby, and Lanced stayed close together as she fired it at the outliners. Kacie fired and fired, and worked her way back to where her sisters and her son were.

The monsters advanced. There were so man of them. They quickly overtook Debra, Tori, Molly, Lindsey, and Patricia, who were unarmed, and devoured them alive. Their screams pierced the intermittent silence.

Corey’s M1 also pierced the intermittent silence. The M1 was the main reason the silence was intermittent. When it did, the projectile it fired pierced outliners – often more than one at a time. He took a position inside one of the holding cells, and motioned for Kacie and crew to follow him there.

Once they were inside, Corey gave his pistol and its ammo to Shelby, and she joined the fight. All in all, there were 30 or so outliners, and the combined shooting efforts plowed them down in moments.

Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:02:59 AM EDT
CHAPTER 14

Corey put a fresh clip in his M1, and topped off the clip he had just removed. Kacie took a moment to tactical load the AR15 she carried. Shelby did the same with the pistol she carried – it was an M&P in 9mm. She really liked this pistol more than the one she had back at home.

Suddenly, Bonnie poked out from the shadows. She had hidden effectively during the fighting. Corey assessed the situation. There were six humans left alive from the twenty that there had been moments ago. He didn’t know how many more outliners or Tzsiks there were left on the ship. He realized there were several dropped Tzsik guns on the floor at the front of the room. He had Shelby and Riley arm themselves with the alien guns.

“Here’s the deal,” Corey said as they gathered around. “There are six of us left. Whoever is flying this ship knows we are here and knows we have escaped the holding cells. They will likely send more aliens or outliners after us in the next few minutes.”

“And if they don’t?” Kacie asked.

“If they don’t then I would think it is because they don’t have enough to spare. And we might have an opportunity, if not an outright advantage.” Corey replied.

“How do we find out?” Riley asked.

“We wait. We wait here.” Corey said.

“We just wait?” Shelby said skeptically.

“Yes,” Corey said. “We stay near this cell – near the control panel. If need be, I can push the buttons with my rifle through the bars. The cell provides a bit of safety – a barrier between us and the outliners. If we see outliners, it’s in the cell we go. If we see aliens, we spread out and shoot. Either way, we have a plan.”

So they stayed close to the cell and waited. Seconds seemed like minutes. Minutes seemed like hours. Corey waited there for thirty minutes before rounding all of them up again.

“I say we take the ship. If they had enough bodies to come after us, they would have by now.” Corey said.

“I agree. If we were flying the ship, we would have sent what warriors we had to destroy the prisoners.” Shelby said.

“That means we have to be careful. We would need to take them hostage, so they could fly the ship back to earth.” Riley said.

“You’re right!” Corey replied. “If, when we find the bridge, or command center, or whatever, we find three or fewer aliens, then you will need to hold your fire. Let me shoot. Let me talk.”

“How do you know they can talk to us?” Lance asked.

“Because I have a ‘Universal Communicator’ here,” Corey answered with a smile while looking at his M1.

––-

The door to the bridge was wide open. Corey, Riley, and Bonnie were on the right side, out of sight. Kacie, Lance, and Shelby were on the left side. Inside the bridge, there were two Tzsiks operating the controls. They clicked nervously to each other. They were blissfully unaware that anyone had survived. The one on the left had set the outliners loose on the prisoners, then fled to the bridge.

After they heard the shooting stop, they figured their genetically mutated creations had done their job and destroyed those humans. Further proof of this was the fact that the humans had never come and attacked them up in the bridge area. Humans were so predictable. As it was, they figured the outliners would casually eat the remains of the people killed.

That being the case, they had turned the ship around and headed back to earth to collect more humans. Turning around in hyperspace was not easy. They had been forced to find a stopping point, then stop and have the computer recalculate the flight back to earth. This was not unheard of, though.

Other human-capturing parties had fallen victim to humans fighting back. These humans were very violent. One ship had even been lost completely, rumored crashed. The Tzsik commanders had hoped the humans had not gained access to their technology. That would be more troubling than anything that they had seen in hundreds of years.

Several hundred years prior, the Tzsiks had encountered a species of super-predators. These things had been very violent. They were supreme hunters. They were not sentient, but were on par with apex predatory species of many worlds. But these things – the Tzsiks called them Great Serpents – had been more than that. They were relentless – like people. It was difficult to keep them contained. They could not be trained or domesticated. And they had most unusual reproductive cycles. It was from this species that they extracted DNA, to help form the outliners.

Outliners were slightly modified from the Great Serpents. They had been modified with human DNA to be trainable and be capable of following simple orders like a dog. This was a far cry form the original state the Great Serpents had come in. The first batch of them had wreaked havoc on the Tzsik’s home world and over-run it. This was why they needed earth now.

The Tzsik’s once-great society had been reduced. They only had a small fragment of the technology and weaponry they once had. The Serpents had overwhelmed the planet’s natural resources and had killed off all the other species. It was so difficult to fight them, that the Tzsik’s had simply left. They’d found suitable home-worlds here and there, but each had its limitations.

Earth, though, was just what they wanted. And the hundreds of years of looking had yielded the Tzsik’s ability to conquer the world without destroying it. The outliners would instinctively obey their commands.

––-

And so the conversations the two Tzsik’s in the bridge went on about how they would capture more humans. They never heard the humans coming up behind them.

“FREEZE!” Corey commanded.

Corey’s M1 was pointing right at the pilot. The Tzsik to the left spun and fired his weapon. The blast ripped through Kacie, Lance and Shelby. Corey quickly moved his rifle and pointed it at the armed threat and fired. The Tzsik went down, and the ship shuddered.

Corey realized the bullet had passed through the alien, then blasted through the control panel. The viewscreen flickered and the elongated stars changed appearance. The pilot screeched, but stayed at his controls.

Corey realized he had tears flowing. Kacie was dead on the floor. So were her son and sister. Riley and Bonnie were safe behind him. He held the rifle up to the pilot’s head. The small alien spoke to him.

“What you’ve done is very bad.” It said.

“What do you mean?” Corey asked as he choked back the tears.

Riley was not choking back tears. Hers were flowing freely.

“You damaged the hyperspace computer.” The thing said.

“What does that mean?”

“Surely you know the principles of physics. As an object approaches the speed of light, time is distorted. Time around the object stays the same, but the object experiences time at a much faster pace.”

“What does that have to do with us?” Corey snapped.

“There, fixed. We are back to normal.” The alien said.

“I’m glad it’s fixed. What does that have to do with us?” Corey said, the anger mounting in his voice.

“Hyperspace allows us to travel and experience time at the same rate as those not travelling really fast. When you shot the hyperspace computer, it overloaded and over-compensated for the time difference.”

“And again I ask, what does that mean for us?”

“It means that what we just thought was a few moments really took place over the course of years back on earth. I am trying to have the computer calculate now how far in the future we flew,” the small

“You mean we time-travelled?”

“Sort of. We travelled about thirty light-years while the machine was broken. We are now about thirty earth years in the future of the time you knew.”

“So how do we get back?” Corey asked.

“It doesn’t work that way. Wherever you are in time, that’s where you are. You can only go forward.”

Corey heaved a sigh. “Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter. After all the Earth has been through, we don’t have anybody to go back to anyways. Your boys saw to that back in the jail cell. Just take us home.”

“Very well.”

Corey grabbed a nearby seat. He was far larger than it was. He sat anyways. He kept his rifle pointed at the alien. Riley and Bonnie huddled near him, grabbing chairs for themselves as well. Riley looked around. The bridge was pretty big – about 40 yards in each direction. There were a few unmanned stations, and mostly what would be living quarters around them.

“So do you stay up here?” Riley asked the alien.

“Yes. What you would call officers stay in the bridge here. Workers stay in the dorm rooms across from the detention facility.” The alien answered.

“So where did you keep the outliners?” Corey asked.

“The what?” the alien answered.

“The outliners. The monsters.”

“Oh, the serpent-hybrids. We kept them in unused dorm rooms. It was easier to keep them in there and you humans in the detention facility.”

“Why are you coming to our planet and taking people?” Corey asked pointedly.

“Your planet most closely resembles our old one. We need it for our species.”

“So you decided to come down and take advantage of humans when we were at our weakest and take our planet from us. Why not just wipe us out in a war? You have more advanced technology.” Bonnie said.

“It’s not like that. Let me tell you what happened. We once had more advanced technology. Then one day, hundreds of years ago, we found this unique species on a planet. They resembled the ‘outliners’ quite a bit. We harvested a few specimens – live and dead. That was a mistake.

“These serpents escaped. Then they bred. Then they set up a queen. More were created. They killed our species. They multiplied at an incredible rate. Before we knew it, they had overrun our planet.

“We fled.

“When we fled, much of our technology was left behind. Much of it was destroyed. We found other planets, but few with all of the resources. And few with the oxygen content of our home world. Without the oxygen content, we could not propagate our race. That is why we started studying humans and their reproduction. We wanted to learn if we could learn from your species. If we could find a way to reproduce, then there would never be a need to take earth. We wanted a non-violent solution.

“That solution never presented itself.”

“So you decided to take Earth as your own.” Corey replied.

“Yes. We did. Our race was dying out. We needed a place to reproduce. So we injected the mutant DNA into the comet. Then we changed the course of the comet so it would hit Earth. And our plan nearly worked.”

“’Nearly’?” Riley asked.

“There were only a few of us left at a breeding age. You killed most of them today. There may not be enough left anymore. I’ve sent a message to general command. Perhaps there are others. That’s why we staffed this ship with so few beings.” The Tzsik said.

Corey nodded. “I would apologize, but your friends tried to kill us first.”

“Oh, I don’t want your apology. It’s too late for that. I actually did not agree with General Command’s ideas on how to do this. I suggested we go to remote places on Earth and breed, then go back to space. That idea was rejected.”

“Or you could come down and share Earth with us now. It’s not like we don’t have the space.” Riley said.

“No.” Corey said firmly. “They tried to kill us. We do not harbor the enemy.”

“And that’s why we had to try to wipe out the rest of you. But we will likely fail, now.” The Tzsik said.

––-

The people talked with the alien, who called himself Lin, for the rest of the trip back. They learned of the Great Serpents, of other interstellar life, and of the limited technology the Tzsiks still had.

Lin got a message, close to arrival, from his General Command. None of the three understood any of the buzzes and clicks that were the Tzsik language. And Lin did not have enough time to explain as they landed.

“General Command has set up a meeting with some of the leaders of your society. They have specifically targeted a few individuals who were very adept at hunting the mutants. They would like to ask for a DNA sample, so that we may make ourselves strong enough to take our own planet back.”

“How do we know you won’t use this against us?” Corey asked.

“DNA splicing is interesting. If we, a less violent race, take on some of your hunting and violent properties, we would become more capable warriors. However, we would never be as good as the original that nature’s creator made. Just like the mutant serpents are not as violent as the original Great Serpents.”

“I see. What if your plan fails?” Corey said.

“We will have the DNA of the premier warriors on your planet. We shall clone them and have them do battle with the Great Serpents.” Lin said.

“What about weapons?” Corey grew impatient.

“The best from your world and ours will be used.”

“And again, how do we know they wouldn’t be used against us?”

“Because we have already shared that technology with you. This was done during our little hyperspace mishap,” Lin said.

––-

Derek, Amanda, and Brad jumped back when the Tzsik spoke.

“You are a most resilient race,” the Tzsik named Ran said. “We have come to ask a favor. We would like a hair sample for your DNA. Our planet has been over-run and we need warriors like you to be able to take it back.”

Just then, Bonnie, Riley, and Corey walked into the room. Corey instantly recognized Brad. They had met at a convention, and stayed friends until the comet strike. They had been about the same age. Now, Corey looked like he was in his mid thirties, but Brad was several decades older looking.

Lin and Ran told the people about the history of what they had done, and in the end, how that plan had failed. Now, the Tzsiks wanted to go and take back what was theirs. And to do that, they would need the human DNA to make clone warriors.

“I think we can trust them. I’ve been on their ship. And they are giving us the best of their technology.” Corey said. “Let’s talk in private.”

They went outside, and spoke freely.

“Even if we can trust them, I trust we can still kick their collective asses.” Brad said.

“Yes,” Corey replied. “That’s the only reason I said we should even entertain the idea.”

“If they could have won in battle, don’t you think they would have attacked outright, instead of sending a virus?” Amanda asked.

“Exactly,” Derek said. “They fled from their home world. They are not warriors, and their technology, though advanced, is not enough to give them an advantage.”

“But what if they clone us and get real warriors?” Brad asked, playing Devil’s advocate.

“Who will train their warriors in real combat?” Derek said.

“Bingo. They might have warrior spirit, but they won’t know how to shoot, they won’t have tactics, and they won’t know our ways.” Corey stated.

They discussed the more of the “ins and outs” of the decision, but eventually they agreed that they would help the aliens, despite the alien’s initial desire to wipe them out.

“There are only a handful of us left. We will have to clone our next generations, but hopefully one day we can take back our planet and our numbers can grow.” Lin said.

Brad, Amanda, and Derek all sat at the urging of the aliens. A small segment of hair was collected from each. Corey was surprised when he was asked to sit, too. They collected a segment of Corey’s hair along with the others’.

––-

The aliens left, and took the outliners with them. There were not many outliners left by this time, and this had been what had fascinated the Tzsiks so much. They had ‘watered down’ the Great Serpent’s DNA – but not that much. The humans, in their weakened condition, had survived the threat that they had not been able to meet head-on, even with advanced technology.

What the Tzsiks never took into account was that the people that had survived the comet and the zombies were, by definition, some of the best warriors on Earth at the time. By the time they realized this, too many of their own had been killed by humans they tried to capture for their experiments.

What the people never really learned was that they were their own worst enemies. No outside force would be able to easily conquer them. Humans were resilient, indeed. Sharp thinking and the ability to cultivate skill were their most useful tools.

And of those that remained, none had better ability to think and cultivate skill than four of the people that stood and watched the alien ship leaving.
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 6:04:55 AM EDT
That's the end of this story.

I have two alternate stories that happen during or immediately after these three installments of "Outline" - but these are not written yet, just in my mind.
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 1:04:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/13/2010 1:06:56 PM EDT by BroncoMafia]
Thanks Usagi.
The alien thing had me turned off a bit when it first came up but I surprised that I liked what you did with it.

ETA:
Seems like you wasted a LOT of character development on Kevin's wife and her infidelity for little effect.
I didn't even remember her name by the time she died and the backstory didn't even register with me when it happened.
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 1:19:45 PM EDT
Wow! Talk about the most unexpected turn of events!!!! This was a great story and I can't wait to read the others!!!!
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 1:26:31 PM EDT
Originally Posted By BroncoMafia:
Thanks Usagi.
The alien thing had me turned off a bit when it first came up but I surprised that I liked what you did with it.

ETA:
Seems like you wasted a LOT of character development on Kevin's wife and her infidelity for little effect.
I didn't even remember her name by the time she died and the backstory didn't even register with me when it happened.


I wonder if we'll be seeing more of that in the other installments????

I was surprised at how quickly some of the main characters in this story were just hosed down by the aliens.
Link Posted: 9/13/2010 9:50:36 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/13/2010 9:54:40 PM EDT by Usagi]
Originally Posted By WIDeerHunter:
Originally Posted By BroncoMafia:
Thanks Usagi.
The alien thing had me turned off a bit when it first came up but I surprised that I liked what you did with it.

ETA:
Seems like you wasted a LOT of character development on Kevin's wife and her infidelity for little effect.
I didn't even remember her name by the time she died and the backstory didn't even register with me when it happened.


I wonder if we'll be seeing more of that in the other installments????

I was surprised at how quickly some of the main characters in this story were just hosed down by the aliens.


Like I said... I wanted to do things I'd not done before.
I wanted to build even more on some of the others before having the aliens blast them to bits... but I got bored.
Remember - previous Outline installment (Outline II) was written from a very non-emotional standpoint. I wanted the opposite.

The story I'm working on now will have a lot of character building. Just a few characters, though... maybe only one. I wanted to practice.


ETA: One story line I want to do is have some of these human characters go to the aliens' home planet and fight the original monsters from which they took DNA to make the outliners. This would be a lot of action. Much bloodshed. AVP, only cool.

ETA2: I had drawn up the outline of the aliens putting the DNA into the comet before the first story. I'm surprised I kept the secret this long.
One night, while out of town for work, I had a hard time coming up with a name for the book. I just had "Outline" up at the top. Then I decided to name the story "Outline."
Link Posted: 9/14/2010 12:46:39 AM EDT
Originally Posted By BroncoMafia:
Thanks Usagi.
The alien thing had me turned off a bit when it first came up but I surprised that I liked what you did with it.

ETA:
Seems like you wasted a LOT of character development on Kevin's wife and her infidelity for little effect.
I didn't even remember her name by the time she died and the backstory didn't even register with me when it happened.


I concur, but it was still a great read.

Thanks for the entertainment, Usagi. Looking forward to your next story!

Link Posted: 9/14/2010 6:07:45 AM EDT
I can't believe that's how you came up with the title....hilarious!!!!
Link Posted: 9/14/2010 7:00:13 AM EDT
Originally Posted By WIDeerHunter:
I can't believe that's how you came up with the title....hilarious!!!!


To say that my influences are "eccentric" might be an understatement!
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