Read The Search For A Cure Online

Authors: C. Chase Harwood

Tags: #Amazing and unique zombie series.

The Search For A Cure (4 page)

 
Other Rangers followed his example, and but for the throb of the spinning blades above, the cabin grew quiet. It was going to be a long trip. Everyone needed rest.

CHAPTER FOUR
BARBWIRE

Nikki and Jon found themselves escorted to a holding area where a dozen or so other people were being kept. It was a fenced-in power sub-station with doubled up razor wire coiled around its top. In one corner was a port-a-potty; opposite that, an open-sided tent with cots set up beneath. Two armed guards milled about at a distance of twenty yards or so. Beyond them a backhoe was digging what appeared to be a wide trench.

 
A tall, thin man in his early fifties, wearing a light windbreaker and a Red Sox cap, stepped up to them. “Welcome to Camp Sparky. My name’s Will Parker. We know why you’re here. We all want to get the hell up to Canada. The commandant out there figures he can hold us until it’s too late and then let us fight for our lives.”

 
Jon and Nikki introduced themselves and Jon asked, “Has anyone in here agreed to take orders, join the major, you know, to at least get out of this cage?”

 
“We all have at one point or another. He doesn’t buy it, even if we mean it. Nope, you’re in here until the onslaught.” He was almost oddly cheerful as he said this. Jon thought he smelled a politician.

 
They were introduced to the other residents, some friendly, others, not so much. One woman was clearly delusional, trying to show them around the space as though it was a garden on her private estate. An old woman lay on one of the cots. She was mostly still, but kept up a constant dull moan. Jon asked if she was perhaps infected. The others didn’t seem to think so. She’d been like that for a couple of days.
 

 
Will said, "The two guys she was riding with decided to fall in with Deighton."

 
“You’re just in time for supper,” volunteered Patricia Gould, the delusional woman - mid-fifties, obese, but in a strong healthy-looking sort of way.

 
Will said, “They give us two meals a day. There are a lot of provisions left from when the bulk of the town escaped.”

 
Ingrid, a mousy woman in her early thirties said, “We’re safer inside the fenced compound than out in the town.”
 

 
Jon and Nikki looked at each other and chose to keep their mouths shut. No point in popping that bubble. This fence wouldn’t hold back the horde of flesh eaters anymore than the police fence in New Hampshire had. It was a cage filled with live food, beating hearts and gallons of blood.

 
The sub-station appeared to be very secure. It had of course been designed to keep people out lest they tamper with the town’s electrical lifeline, and also served to keep children and morons from electrocuting themselves. At its center were several large transformers fed by thick cables coming out of the adjacent power plant. More cables led away from the transformers up to a long line of high-tension towers spanning the nearby lake and over the horizon. The power plant was a large bunker-like building that squat by the lakeshore crowned with smoke stacks. It had smooth walls and no windows, just two sets of large double metal doors and a loading dock. Though it wasn’t operating, markings on the building indicated that it was natural gas fired. Jon saw movement on the roof. Two men were attaching razor wire to the top edge of the parapet wall. If they thought that Fiends were going to somehow climb up there, they were dumber than he thought. Then again, who really new what the things were capable of? He decided to give the soldiers credit for overkill.

 
Nikki pointed to another pair of men in Army fatigues working on the far backside of the building. They were placing something on the ground and carefully attaching some kind of cable to it. “Trip wires,” she said. “They’re placing anti-personnel mines around the building.”
 

 
Several more men were finishing the installation of a barbed wire fence. Beyond that, mounds of fresh sawdust and bright yellow stumps evidenced the recent clear cutting of the surrounding forest, leaving a two hundred yard killing zone around the whole complex. At its edge the forest was thick and green with new leaves covering a dense, fern laden, mossy floor. The backhoe driver was guarded by a well-armed man who scanned the forest with binoculars and occasionally stomped his feet to keep warm.

 
The razor wire around the enclosure was doubled in a way that precluded Jon from climbing up and lying across it as he had at the police lot. As prisons go, this was a pretty good one. As he and Nikki circled the wire they found themselves back at the main entrance, as their fellow prisoners lined up for dinner.
 

 
A pickup truck with three well-armed guards backed up to the gate. One kept his weapon trained on the prisoners while the other two dropped the tailgate and dragged out a large stockpot full of steaming food. They unlocked the gate and without a word, exchanged the pot for a now empty one handed off by Will.

 
The stockpot contained a beef stew. Jon guessed it had been in cans only a little earlier. It was hot though, and the first real cooked meal that he’d have in quite some time.
 
His tongue and cheeks swelled with saliva in a painful way as he anticipated the first taste. As the food settled in his stomach, he found that his thinking was becoming clearer and his general perception of his surroundings got brighter.
 

 
A woman in her early thirties wearing a goose down coat with a mass of unwashed locks slid over next to Jon and Nikki. She was dragging a pair of crutches with her, leaning them against the table. Her eyes were bright with unspoken words, yet she hesitated, letting her mouth run slack.
 

 
Jon said, “Hello.”

 
Nikki nodded to the woman, who finally spoke with a whisper. “I didn’t say that I wouldn’t cooperate.”
 

 
A man in blue mechanic’s coveralls broke in, “Don’t bother with Kathy. She thinks we’re just bait.”
 

 
“I wasn’t speaking with you, was I, David Miller?” She turned back to Jon and Nikki. “I volunteered to help Major Deighton, but I’ve got a bad leg. Skiing accident back in December, when all of this was in Florida.”
 

 
Jon, not sure how to respond, offered, “I’m sorry.”
 

 
“My bad leg keeps me from being as useful on the outside as I can be on the inside.”
 

 
“How’s that?” asked Nikki.

 
“On the inside, I’m bait.”
 

 
Jon looked at her sideways, “What would be the point of that? The infected need no bait. If they see or smell, or however they can tell that you’ve got a healthy beating heart, you’re lunch.”
 

 
Nikki piped in, “Maybe he stuck you in here, because he doesn’t want an invalid slowing down the construction.”
 

 
“If that’s true,” Kathy responded, “then why not let me leave, take my car up to Canada?”
 
She pointed to a line of stakes with orange tape on them that led across the muddy grass surrounding the power plant. “Look where the stakes lead.”
 

 
They bypassed the cage and continued around the building.

 
Nikki stood and scanned it more carefully. “This prison is on the outside of the new fence and trench.”
 

 
Jon stood and looked himself. “Well, that’s not good.” He looked at two men on the roof of the power plant sighting a big machine gun. “Easier to pick them off if they bunch up around a cage full of us.”

 
Kathy said, “No one listens to me. Maybe they’ll listen to you.”

 
David Miller said, “I never thought of it that way.”

 
“Me either,” said Will who had been listening in.

 
Jon asked, “What about some of the other citizens outside? I mean they can’t all be for this. Maybe they don’t know the plan. Can we appeal to someone? Are any of the guards friendly?”

 
Will said, “They’re the least friendly. If anybody is in on this, it’s the guys building up this site and the ones bringing us food and water. There’s about fifty or sixty armed people here, but most have nothing to do with us. We’re isolated.”

 
They were startled by a gunshot, which was followed by another. A lone male Fiend came running out of the woods and one of the fence builders was on a knee shooting. Then maybe twenty more infected charged out following the first.
 

 
Kathy offered an involuntary scream.

 
The backhoe driver let the tractor idle and stood up to join the rest, shooting with precise three round bursts. Several Fiends made it as far as the trench and the soldiers hollered a rebel yell as they shot down into the hole. On the roof, one soldier yelled at another who simply held onto the fifty-caliber machine gun and stared in horror. The yeller shoved the man aside and cocked the big gun. With ground shaking power, the soldier lit up the last of the charging Fiends, blowing them to pieces all over the freshly cut tree stumps. The whole event lasted less than a minute.

 
Later, after they'd piled up what they could, a squad went out and doused the remains with gasoline, setting it all alight. The smoke from the burning flesh passed right through the prisoner’s cage causing them to cover their faces with their blankets as they gagged and retched.

 
When the sun started to go down, they could make out the first wave of military aircraft flying overhead from the North. Bombers and fighters stretched out to the horizon. Jon knew vaguely the number of planes that the US combined forces had on the continent. This was far more. NATO aircraft had apparently joined the fight. The soldiers let out a cheer and the prisoners found themselves joining in. The exterminator was visiting New England. Misplaced or not, the prisoners felt some hope for the first time in five months.

CHAPTER FIVE
TOUCH-AND-GO

An hour before the Chinooks were to land in Fort Detrick, Maryland, an F-22 Raptor had flown over and dropped two nerve gas bombs, saturating the landing area in deadly poison. The pilot had seen some Fiend activity on the outskirts of the base, but she ignored them, continuing with her mission to drop two more bombs on the next refueling base at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. She had little fear of injuring any uninfected personnel. Both bases had been thoroughly evacuated during the Exodus. Of course there was always the chance that civilians had taken up refuge (the typical barriers around a military base being quite a deterrent to even a highly determined Fiend), but that wasn’t the pilot’s job to worry about.
 

 
Fort Jackson was located right next to the city of Columbia, which to her astonishment, was still on fire. She marveled at the power of kinetic energy; it’s ability to render to dust in a few short moments, that which took decades, centuries to build. As Lieutenant Reese Tilden released the second set of bombs, the dull gray that signaled the approach of dawn gave her a brief moment to observe the ground. A gated and heavily fenced tank depot was completely surrounded by Fiends. There was a small building inside with the words HELP painted in bright white on the roof. Clearly someone or a group of someones had taken refuge inside.
 

 
She could radio the information in, but there was little to no chance that these folks would get a rescue. They’d have to wait it out for the re-invasion. Of course that meant that they would be long dead or infected.
 

 
Deciding to say to hell with protocol, she banked around for another look, reduced her speed and got lower. Sure enough there were people now standing on top of the roof and waving sheets. Fiends were throwing themselves against the fence, many entangling themselves in the razor wire. She could make out the muzzle flashes of a few weapons coming from the building. Heck, her cannon was all loaded up. No point in wasting good fuel bringing all that depleted uranium back to Canada
.
She’d have to file an action report, but her gun camera would support her decision. She banked again, armed her weapon and came in low.

 
The F-22 only carries 480 rounds, giving the M61A2 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannon
 
about 5 seconds of sustained fire. Lieutenant Tilden made two passes, firing her gun for two and a half seconds each. Perhaps fifty Fiends were shredded into hamburger and she was gone, happy that she had at least helped a little. What she couldn’t know is that the Vulcan also decimated the fencing, leaving at least two hundred Fiends who had avoided the meat grinder to pour inside.

 
At least the defenders wouldn’t face starvation…

Fort Detrick, Maryland was the center for the US biological weapons program until 1969 when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order outlawing offensive biological weapons research in the United States. After that it became the center for ‘defensive’ biological weapons research. Tran found it sort of ironic that the place was soaked with nerve agent. The Chinooks took two wide circles over the helipad before landing. There were a few bodies on the outskirts of the fort as well as several on the roof of one building. The people on the roof appeared to be refugees who had picked a bad place to hunker down; their twisted forms covered in their own vomit, told the tale of a grisly end via nerve gas. The other bodies outside the grounds exhibited the same postures, but were more than likely Fiends.
 

 
Not a soul on either helicopter felt free from remorse for the refugees. Their mission had killed healthy people. It was horrible. Ghost crossed himself, pulled out a small crucifix from his shirt and kissed it.

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