Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ghost

Mac sat quietly in a chair next to the boy’s bed for several hours. For a while, it didn’t look like Jude would be waking up. Two serious head injuries in one day wasn’t something to be taken lightly, especially when The Compound had little to no medical supplies left they could use to treat him with. A few times, he twitched or moaned, and that was enough to give the man with the bushy red mustache hope.

Lucy had taken Mac place at a briefing in regards to their assault at The ICU. The mission had been a success for the most part, aside from the loss of Zak and Jude’s injury. Cable, the leader of The Crazies, had been ravaged by Stella and then covered with the falling rubble of the building. The Family’s reign of terror had finally ended, sending a harsh message to the remaining gangs still in the area – The Paragon Convoy was not to be crossed.

Though they had won the battle, the war was still far from over. Paragon would still have to send reinforcements if they wanted to keep running their trade route in Southern Florida. That meant Mac would still have to travel to Avalon, but Jude was still out cold. He’d wait, at least a day or so before departing without him.

Luckily, that night, Jude had his first flicker of consciousness in the form of a memory. He remember Dale and the slave camp, the beatings he would receive. All of these terrible thoughts pressed against his frontal lobe until he finally opened his eyes. The first one to notice was a nurse, who touched Mac’s arm and jerked him from his snoring slumber.

“Holy shit! You’re awake!” He cried, rushing to Judah’s side.

Judah didn’t acknowledge him at first, his mind was still hooked on Cable’s involvement in the death of his parents.

“Where is Cable? The leader of The Crazies?” Jude asked softly, wiping the sweat from his face.

Mac smiled and patted his roughly on the back.

“You ain’t gotta work about him no more. Bastards under a mountain of concrete” Mac exclaimed with a hearty chuckle.

Jude clinched his teeth, but said nothing about Cable’s involvement in his colony’s eradication. In the coming hours, he’d slowly forget about his angry towards the former Forge member. It would be replaced with hate for the entire organization, but that was something Judah could quietly conceal. He was just relieved that Terra Firma never again had to worry with Cable and his Family.

The next morning, Mac explained the plan to his young counterpart. They take the Neverglade Waterway north until it emptied out into Port Avalon, then speak with the higher-ups about sending extra help to The Compound. Lucille could handle operations while Mac was away since she was unspoken second in command. Their vesicle was an old fishing boat The Compound called The Ghost. It wasn’t much to look at, but it’d get them from A to B in under 24 hours.

The Ghost pulled away from the dock and began floating away from The Guerillas that had come to see the duo off. Judah wasn’t much for goodbyes and only gave a single wave before taking a seat next to Stella, who was whining excitedly.

“Calm down girl… Its gonna get better now” He whispered to his dog gently.

Mac watched the merchants on the dock become dots and vanish over the horizon. He hadn’t taken a moment to relax since before Jude had first arrived, so he checked ahead with binoculars one last time before closing his eyes to have a short rest. The Ghost tugged along in the setting sun, its engine matched only by the wind and several whispers from the shadows of the shoreline.

Miles away, back at The Compound, a merchant named Miles found himself revealing Jude’s current location amidst panicked gasps for air. When his attacker had heard what he needed to hear, the young man’s windpipe collapsed under the pressure of a powerful grasp. His target was moving to Avalon on a boat. He’d follow Judah silently, not slowing to eat or sleep.

While the sun disappeared behind the remains of The ICU, the bodies of The Family rested peacefully in mass grave. Cable hadn’t cared greatly for them, but it was still his duty to give them a proper burial. The boy from Indian River had allowed him to live, an ironic mistake he’d made himself so many years before. Cable wouldn’t make that mistake a second time. When the time was right, he’d slice the boy from ear to ear, right in front of his mustached friend.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eye For An Eye

The jeep jumped a speed bump and flew several feet through the air before slamming back onto the pavement, fishtailing and continuing its stampede in the direction The ICU. Jude gripped the roll cage tightly, and squinting to focus his vision, he could see the large abandoned hospital, illuminated in the darkness by several large searchlights. Stella growled with anticipation, since she hadn’t seen much action back at The Compound and was hungry for a chase.

“Mac? What’s the plan here?” Judah called over the engine.

Mac didn’t answer, only held his hand up to silence the boy and pulled into a darkened alleyway. When the vehicle was off, he turned to the squad, which consisted of Judah, Stella, Lucy, Neville and another Guerilla named Zak. They all waited in silence for Mac to lay out the plans.

“Okay… Here’s what I’m thinking” He whispered finally.

The plan seemed simple enough. Mac and Neville would make their way around to the back of The ICU and begin planting C4 charges on weak spots. The others would head to the front to cause a distraction in the form of a firefight. It wasn’t as safe as Jude may have wanted it to be, but there really wasn’t many options. When the gang split up, Mac and Neville took the car, leaving the others on foot. Lucy came up with the brilliant idea to keep their distance and fight with Jude’s rifle. A nearby building would provide the cover. The sign had been gone a long time, but looked to be some kind of rehabilitation center.

Jude set up at window from the second floor with Lucy while Zak hiked out a few hundred feet away on ground level so he could fire blindly and confuse The Crazies. Mac pulled into a shaded area and the explosives team made their way towards the hospital. When they heard the first shot shatter the night air around them, the moved quickly for the rear entrance. Jude’s bullet splinter a knee cap, sending The Follower to the cold, cement ground.

“God damn! They’re here, Cable!” One of the raiders cried out over his shoulder.

He fired in the direction of the shooters assumed location. The other followed suit, except for Cable who watched quietly. By this time, Zak decided to begin his distraction spray. When attention fleeted, the raiders fired in opposite directions. Jude took a breath and laid waste to the crowd in the parking lot. When the shots finally stopped, they watched whoever had survived hurry into the building.

“We did it!” Jude cried, wiping sweat from his brow.

His celebrating was cut short however when Lucy pointed off into the distance. Jude peered through his scope again, and could see Cable holding Zak closely by his throat. In his hand, he held Zak’s walkie-talkie. He looked around for a moment and pressed gently on the talk button.

“You stop all that shooting now, or I’ll fucking end this piece of shit” Cable mumbled coldly.

Jude reached for the radio, trying to plan the next move. Zak was as good as dead if he struck the wrong nerve with the strange man.

“Okay” Jude spoke into the walkie.

 Cable smiled and again pressed the button.

“Why don’t yall come on down here” He instructed.

He didn’t have as many followers left, but he was still dealing the cards. Lucy’s face was shrouded with concern, and Jude could already tell she wasn’t going to be able to keep her cool down there.

“Listen… I’m gonna go talk to this guy. You wait here with Stella” He said, standing up and clipping the radio to his belt.

She argued with him at first, but eventually complied and took Stella by the collar. Jude began his walk to the meeting, the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach growing more severe. When Cable could see him, he called out and tossed the radio over his shoulder.

“Hell of a shot, kid” He laughed, looking around at his dead soldiers.  “That’s close enough!” He yelled when he felt Jude was a bit too close for comfort.

“Let him go” Jude demanded, brandishing his weapon.

Cable chuckled loudly.

“Let him go? You drop that fuckin gat and we’ll talk!” Cable shouted.

Jude didn’t like how things were turning out, but he hoped Mac and Neville would finish up soon. He placed his rifle of the ground and backed away.

“Smart move” Cable said, and then emptied a round from a concealed pistol into the back of Zak’s head, killing him instantly. Jude jerked, hoping he could save the unfortunate man, but Cable waved his barrel at him, stopping him in his tracks.

“Nope! Don’t move!” He cried, taking two steps forward.

“You fucking lunatic!” Jude screamed.

Cable laughed again and took a few more steps.

“What’s your name, boy?” He questioned.

At first, Judah didn’t answer but after several threats with the pistol, he softly muttered his name.

“Judah, eh? You ain’t with Paragon, are ya?” Cable prodded, and even though Jude remained silent, his expression answered the question. “Then where you from, boy? What’s your story?” He continued, conducting the conversations with his gun.

“I’m not telling you shit!” He shouted, fixing his feet in the dirt below him.

“Oh my! Someone wants to fight? You don’t even know who you’re dukin it out with yet, kiddo…” Cable said, tossing his gun off into a pile of rubble.

This man was absolutely insane, there was no question about that, but maybe this had been the break Jude needed. If he could stall him long enough for Mac to blow the charges, then this whole mess would be over before it even left the ground. Jude grinned and humored him.

“I guess you’re right… Who are you then?” He asked, readying himself in case the hooded man tried to attack.

“My name is Cable. Ain’t got a last name, ain’t no need for one. I’m old enough to know right from wrong, but I’ve hit that age where I’ve stopped caring. I was head of my family round these parts until a couple of hours ago when you and your boys back at The Compound cut em down… How you feel about that, taking away a man’s family?” Cable asked quietly.

“Actually, I lost my family when I was younger… Killed by The Forge” Jude fired harshly.

This stopped Cable in his tracks. He stared at the boy, his face still hidden away.

“The Forge, huh? Where bouts did you live?” He questioned.

Jude watched the man slow his advance. Something was clearly bothering him.

“Indian River… Colony was called Westgate” Jude said quietly.

Cable froze, his breathing dying down to a soft wheeze. For a moment, he stood in silence, then chuckled a little.

“Thought we killed everyone” He mumbled to himself.

Jude’s heart sank in his chest. Standing before him was one of the people responsible for his parents death.

“Where were you hiding out?” He asked Jude, only to wave the question away seconds later. “Doesn’t matter now… You’re here and they’re not” He mumbled bluntly.

Jude could feel his fist clenching tightly.

“You know, that night is special to me. I was second in command under Martine, and she had sent me to wipe that whole colony off the map… Those fucking savages. That was the night I got these scars…” Cable explained, removing his hood.

Underneath was disfigured flesh that’d covered a bald head. His left eye was completely white, and half of his mouth had been fused shut.

“Some jackass standing at the main gate hit us with a Molotov. Burned me pretty badly, as you can see…” He muttered through his deformed mouth. “When I found that coward, he was lying on the ground with a bullet in his lung. He was choking up blood, but I could understand what he was trying to say… At first I thought he was calling me a son of a bitch… But now I know… He was worried about his son…” Cable whispered with a smile.

The tears in Jude’s eyes ran down the side of his face and trickled into the pool of blood that had formed from the runoff Zak’s wound had produced.

“Are you okay, Junior? Did I strike a nerve?” He said, slowly reaching for his razor.

Jude, who was still trying to come to terms with what was happening, didn’t notice his advance. However, just before Cable could harm him, a fur-covered mass lunged out of the darkness, striking him in the ribs and knocking him to the ground. Jude was slapped by the moment, and his eyes followed Cable to the struggle. Stella tore violently at Cable skin, ripping off large chunks and tossing them aside like tattered bits of cloth. Jude watched in amazement, wondering what to do. Should he pull her off and finish Cable himself? Was that even possible with the amount of blood loss he had already suffered? Before a decision could be made though, Jude heard Mac’s voice call out over Stella’s growling.

“Jude! Get the fuck back! Its gonna go off!” He cried from behind.

Jude turned and could see Mac, Lucy and Neville waiting in the jeep. Without thinking, he whistled for Stella to follow and bolted. Over his shoulder, he heard Cable cry out, but the blast stifled his threats. As Mac waved him on, he thought about home – About Westgate and his parents. The explosion sent him flying forward, slamming his head into the jeep. For the second time today, Judah slipped into unconsciousness. This time however, he didn’t dream of his old life. His mind stayed completely blank. He imagined that’s what it felt like to be dead, and for a moment, he wished he was.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

March of The Pigs: PART II

It was Mac’s cry for help that pulled Judah back into the moment. He sat up and looked around, his vision blurry from the trauma the Raider had deal. The world continued to spin and when he placed his hand to the back of his head, be felt the trickle of blood slipping between his fingers. Ahead, a cluster of Crazies rallied around the outside of The Generator Shed. The large door had been shut, and Mac was safely inside, though Judah didn’t know how much longer the barrier would hold them off. Slowly climbing to his knees, Jude crawled towards a large cargo crate. Once he was out of sight, he scanned the area for his rifle. His eyes finally located The 56, resting only a few yards away. Even though it was a short sprint from him, it was still too far and he was sure The Raiders would notice him. He was going to have to improvise.

Above him, he noticed the scaffolding, which could be reached via stacked containers. When he was above the chaos below, he took a minute to look back at the main entrance. The Family had only sent a wave of followers over the fence, but more were waiting to scale the chain link. They had to get The Titan running again. Moving quietly along the metal trusses, Jude didn’t stop until he was directly over the crowd assaulting Mac. There was nothing he could do to help his friend without a weapon, so he followed the walkway further down until he had reached The Weapon Cache. He lowered himself down onto the roof of the truck and opened a small hatch, before slipping in unseen.

Mac could feel his grip on the door handle weakening. He was going to die, and these freaks were going to eat him. He had let down the entire convoy, failed those he was assigned to protect. He couldn’t even protect Alison, why did he think he was capable of leading a colony? As his hand grew tired and sweaty, he closed his eyes. Was this how it was supposed to end? Dismembered by The Crazies in a shed? As pathetic as his final moments seemed, he accepted them and prepared to released the door, allowing the attackers to enter. Just before he could free his grasp, a whirling whistle gradually began to echo outside.

“MAC! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE DOOR!” Jude’s voice called over the now deafening hum of a spinning chain gun.

Mac dove to his left, as far away from the entrance as possible. His elbows tore open when the hit the concrete floor of the shed, splashing small specks of crimson onto the nearby wall. The small dots were soon joined by large gaping holes and violent mists of enemy blood. The minigun chewed through skin like thin paper, snapping bones like twigs. Jude’s barrage lasted for only a minute, but in that short amount of time, he’d managed to end eight lives. About 160 years worth of living, cut down by technology formed with brute force.

When the dust cleared, Mac stood up slowly. He could see Jude through the hole the gun had made in the wall.

“Holy shit!” Mac shouted, looking around at the corpses.

“I know!” Jude called back, his hands shaking as he placed the gun on the blood soaked ground. “Are you alright? I didn’t hit you, did I? My rescue options were limited” He explained and stepped through the hole into the shed with Mac.

“I’m fine, kid! We’ve ain’t got time to chat! We gotta get this fucking gene up and running before they send some more of their boys over the fence!” Mac informed, somewhat ignoring Jude’s question.

The two moved towards The Titan and scanned for the problem. Finally, Jude pointed over Mac’s shoulder.

“There! Cable came loose!” He cried.

The boy jogged over and connected to large extension cords. There was a sudden spark, a boom and then nothing. Complete darkness enveloped the room – The Titan had died.

“Oh fuck! Are you serious!?” Jude wailed from somewhere in the blackness.

“Nope, hold on!” Mac said confidently.

There was a bang, followed by a few clicking noises.

“Sometimes ya gotta give this old bastard a kick!” Mac laughed.

A loud crackle resounded throughout the shed, which worried Jude momentarily. Was the generator going to explode on them? These feelings disappeared when The Titan roared loudly and sprang back to life. Jude turned to Mac, who was leaning against a chair, smiling and breathing heavily.

“Told you” Mac chuckled, flashing a smile from behind his bushy mustache.

Across the yard, Cable was sending more troops towards The Compound. His cackles met a sudden halt as the newest scaling Family members shook violently moments after touching the fence, then collapsed into smoldering piles.

“What…” Cable whispered in shock. “This isn’t suppose to happen!” He cried, waving another group in.

They hesitated at first, but charged at the fence just the same. These followers met the same end as the previous party. Cable was stunned, and with his numbers now drastically cut in half, he called out for a retreat. Most of The Crazies that tried to return to him were shot by the remaining riflemen. When The Family finally pulled out, only twelve had survived. Jude watched them pile into a nearby truck and take off for The ICU.

“We did it! They’re retreating!” He cried happily.

Mac stayed silent, watching the truck pull away.

“No… Go get the jeep, Jude” He whispered.

“What? They’re leaving. We won, Mac” Jude laughed, rubbing an excited Stella on the head.

Mac looked at the boy, his eyes more serious than Jude had ever seen them.

“We have to follow them. We have to go to The ICU and finish this, or they’ll never leave us alone” He stated bluntly, picking up a backpack full of explosives. “You bring that jeep of yours around. I’m gonna go round up a few guys that aren’t hurt too badly” Mac walked towards the merchants, but stopped short and turned back to Jude. “Are you alright? Your heads bleeding something awful” He asked.

Jude touched his wound again. It stung, but it wasn’t anything too serious.

“I’ll be fine… Let’s just finish this” He answered, whipping the blood on his green cargo pants.

Mac grinned and slung his weapon over his right shoulder.

“That’s what I like to hear, Switch” He laughed.

Then he pivoted quickly, and marched towards The Guerillas. Jude hurried along in the direction of the garage, not stopping to pick up his rifle. About a mile away, Cable was riding shotgun. His face, still shrouded by his hood, remained expressionless. They’d put up more of a fight than he’d expected. The Family’s only option was to go back to The ICU and wait for them to arrive. Cable knew they’d come after them because he had seen a man he recognized. A man whose wife had been killed years ago in a raid. That man, with the bushy mustache, wanted blood for blood… And he was going to get it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Touched By The Hand of God

Screams outside woke the boy before his mother could reach him. When he sprang up and gazed into the darkness of the room, he could see movement. Frightened, he shrieked and covered both eyes with his hands.

“Honey, no! It’s mommy!” His mother informed him, pulling his hands away.

Night Eye had set in slightly and the boy could see a tall figure with long hair. The form quickly pulled his to his feet and cupped a hand over his mouth.

“I want you to listen to me, okay? The colony is being attacked. Dad is already at the main gate, and I’m going to go there too. You’re to go next door and hide with Gwen until we come get you. Do you understand?” She instructed, all the while watching the door.

“But Mommy, I want to stay with you!” The boy cried, his eyes already filling with large tears.

The woman hugged him tightly and kissed him on the top of the head.

“Everything is gonna be fine. I just need you to do as I say… Understand?” She drilled again.

The child nodded and squeezed her tightly. From her pocket, she unearthed a small pistol and placed it in his hand.

“Now go!” She barked and pushed him towards the backdoor.

Outside, the colony was in complete disarray. Several bodies, one of which belonging to a playmate, rested on the dirt a few feet away. He clinched his teeth, fighting to hold back his tears, and raced over to a nearby crate for cover. Once in the shadows, he checked the cylinder of the small revolver. Six bullets rested in the .38 Special and he quietly hoped that they’d remain unused. Gwen, the friend his mother had told him to wait with, lived two houses away.

The backdoor of her home was unlocked and he stumbled inside, frantically searching for his friend without calling out. He soon heard footsteps in the next room, followed by a short gasp and a deafening gunshot. The boy dove under the kitchen table and clutched his knees. Gwen was gone now and the young child, who was only 11 years old, was on his own.

“Search the kitchen” A man’s voice piped from the other room.

With each footstep, the boy grew increasingly nervous. He took aim with the gun and when the intruder’s legs appeared in the room, he fired off a round, shattering the knee bone. The adult groaned loudly and toppled over, allowing the child to get a good look at his face. Staring back at him was a member of The Forge, characterized by his strange armor. In that moment, Jude knew this would be a day he’d remember for the rest of his life.

Another bullet silenced The Disciple, giving the boy enough time to seek shelter in a nearby storage unit. Footsteps and shrill cries for mercy echoed outside, and the young man plugged his ears in an attempt to silence the horror around him. His colony was slowly being cleansed of its sin. This process would go on for eight hours straight. At one point, he dosed off but quickly jerked himself back awake. The amount of terror now pumping through his veins would make sure his eyes didn’t make that mistake again.  Several times, Judah heard Disciples traipsing about near his hiding spot, but thankfully no one ever thought to check in the corroded dumpster.

When the dust settled, Judah buried his parents under an old tree in the middle of town. He attempted to bury others but dragging two adults across the concrete had taken its toll on his young body. Instead, he covered the departed with bits of cloth he found in the wreckage of former homes. He didn’t know any prayers, mainly because The Forge made religion something for the people of Terra Firma to fear.

The history of Forge was limited to what the old timers had told him. After The Great Flash, many tribes became Raiding Parties. One of these, a group calling itself The Forge, appeared in Origin and spread south. They were different from the normal bunch of loonies, and were dictated by a strict code of law, most of which involved the slaughter of anyone who wasn’t a Disciple. A woman name Martine Ricci became known throughout Terra Firma as The Ánuims, ruler of The Forge and a direct connection to what they believed was God.

The Forge spent the next 15 years building a strong following across the wasteland. Those who didn’t comply were “made an example of” and that’s exactly what had happened to Jude’s colony. In years to come, The Forge would lose several key battles against Avalon and Second City, which reduced their numbers from 12,000 strong to around 4,000. Soon, The Forge had almost completely vanished from conversation. Though their followers continued to be seen scattered across Georgia and Alabama, they were rarely spotted in Florida. People forgot about the carnage the group had unleashed upon the masses, something they’d all come to regret years down the line when Jude was a grown man.

After several hours of crying, Judah forced himself to stop. He understood that from this point forward, he had to be a man. The Forge had let him live, and that made him feel as though he was destined to do something great with his life. Sparing him was not by choice – It would be The Ánuims undoing.

He had lost two soldiers and only four stood at attention in the pistol. He gazed down at it, contemplating suicide. Was that what he was destined to do? Was he suppose to swallow a bullet and join his friends and family? Never. If he gave up now, if he took the easy way out, he’d never be able to take revenge on The Forge. Farming, a career that seemed almost impossible to avoid in the future, became a distant memory. Killing Martine Ricci was now his prime objective.

Jude spent the rest of the day gathering equipment. It wasn’t safe to stay in the area because there was a possibility of Disciples returning. He headed south towards The Shore, a region Forge seemed to shy away from. It was notorious for its raiding groups, and even with the strength Martine’s army possessed, the idea of daily squabbles with a seemingly endless amount of deranged Raiders was a bit too much for even the most loyal Disciple. With everything he could scrap together in his backpack, he trekked seven miles before even stopping to rest.

Inside an abandoned gas station, Judah was lucky enough to find a box of fruit gummies and a few granola bars. This was considered a feast for most of the people of Indian River, so he savored each bite. This prompted him to take a moment and breath easy, something he hadn’t done since waking up to the attack. He gazed out a grimy shattered window into the fog, which had built up around the exterior of the store. He’d sleep here tonight and begin his walk again in the morning. It wasn’t any safer during the day, but at least he’d be able to see a raider’s club before it smashed his skull in. It was morbid thinking, however at this point, he had nothing to lose. He’d either survive or end up being with his mother and father, so it was win-win.

Judah made himself comfy in the back room behind the counter. The doors had been reinforced to the best of his abilities. Even though he worked for almost an hour stacking heavy boxes, The Swarm easily forced their way inside. Jude would spend his next year in a prison camp, breaking rocks and waiting for a wealthy socialite to hire him as a slave. Three days before he was to begin his “employment”, The Paragon Convoy would enter the camp to drop off some supplies. This would be the first time Jude crossed paths with a trader from Avalon named Del Osborn.

Friday, December 17, 2010

March of The Pigs: PART I

The sun was setting when Mac looked up at Jude, who was covering him from the scaffolding with the other Riflemen. The Crazies had yet to attack The Compound, which had sent mixed feelings throughout entire camp. No one was excited for the assault, but the fact that it hadn’t happened yet made everyone a little edgy.

“What the fuck, man!?” Mac cried up to Jude.

Jude smiled slightly and checked his scope again. In the distance, on a pile of debris, sat a coyote. The beast stared at him for a few seconds, then stood and scampered away, as if something nearby had spooked it.

“Hold on… Might have something!” Jude cried, still peering through his scope.

Across the dead environment, darkened forms began to appear. Slowly, the shape leading the pack came into focus, allowing Jude to get a good look. Cable stopped to survey the area, wanting to get a good look at The Compound one last time before he erased it from existence.

“It is time… Go…” He whispered to the other Family members.

The Crazies, armed with clubs and sawn-off shotguns, charged towards The Compound. Jude, who was still watching in amazement, snapped himself back into the moment and shouted down to Mac.

“Here they come!” The young man cried.

“I see em!” Mac answered, readying his AR-15. “Get ready up there! Those bastards won’t stop until their hearts do!” Mac yelled, firing a bullet.

The metal projectile spun towards the target – A tall Raider sporting a top hat. It entered his left eye, passed through his skull, exited the back and struck another attacker, a female in pigtails, in the shoulder. She flailed about violently, screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Got that motherfucker!” Shouted Mac.

Jude took aim with The 56 and blasted another Family member in the throat. The savage choked for a moment, trying to continue, but eventually succumb to the wound and collapsed.

On the hill, Cable watched as his first few troops fell. He smiled, and adjusted the hood masking his face. It was a small price to pay for victory. The Family knew the risks, so Cable thought nothing of the deaths. Mac pointed to one of the groups of Crazies making their way towards the fence. A Riflemen took notice and fired a slug into the IED, which exploded into hellfire, killing at least seven of the assailants. Mac howled at the site of charred remains, his bloodlust at its peek.

The leader of The Crazies was surprised by the merchant’s ingenuity. He had assumed there would be a short scuffle and that’d be that, but these Cro-Magnons had planned ahead – This would be an interesting battle. More Family members were signaled to attack, and even with the IEDs in place, the advancing army seemed to be gaining on The Guerillas. Mac watched the first raider begin the climb to the top of the fence and hurried to the switch that supplied the power, but when he pulled down on the large control, nothing happened.

“Shit! The fucking fence is out!” Cried Mac with dread in his voice.

Jude heard the commotion and poked his head over the metal walkway to look down at Mac.

“What’s up?” Jude called.

“The Gene isn’t workin!” Mac returned, flipping the switch again.

“Well, go see if you can get it up and running! I’ll cover you from here!” Jude fired back, aiming at The Crazies about to hurdle the chain link and firing.

The raider’s body went limp as the bullet passed through her torso, and toppled to the group in a heap. Mac bolted for The Generator Shed, the sound of impending doom echoing behind him. He neared the large metal door and began rolling it to one side. Inside, The Titan was running at full power, but somewhere in between the generator and the fence, they had missed a step.

Cable laughed and watched one of his soldiers, Walker, reach the other side of the defenses. It was only a matter of time before they engulfed the merchant camp. Victory was sweet on the tip of his tongue. Tonight, The Family would feast.

Jude could see a small horde of Crazies advancing towards The Generator Shed and called out for Mac, only to realize he couldn’t hear him over the roar of The Titan. He quickly began to decent the ladder next to him, and as soon as his feet touched the ground below, he raced straight at the crowd outside the shack. Jude continued to cry out, all the way up until a lone attacker, waiting in the shadows nearby, struck him over the head. The world went squiggly for a moment, bouncing around like a ball and then sank into a pitch black slumber.