Read Machines of the Dead 3 Online

Authors: David Bernstein

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic

Machines of the Dead 3 (9 page)

BOOK: Machines of the Dead 3
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Chapter 18

 

 

Maria rolled her eyes and sucked in a breath as she made her way along the short hall, M4 in hand. The air was colder, bringing a rich chill to her bones. Reaching the corridor that branched off the main hallway, she allowed her eyes to adjust to the dark before peeking around the corner into the laundry room. A gust of wind blew past. The back door had been ripped off its hinges. Fragments of glass sparkled in the dim moonlight that shone through the doorway.

She stepped into the room. Avoiding the glass was going to be impossible. Each footstep was slow and gentle and she cringed every time a piece of glass let loose a shriek. The monsters outside would know she was there, that someone had left the den. It was what they wanted.

With a quickened pulse, she continued to take even breaths and moved forward. When she reached the open doorway, she had a partial view of the back and side yard. The snow was messed, trampled by numerous feet.

The girl barked a cry of pain, the sound off to the right and out of her view.

Swallowing, Maria poked her head around the door frame. With the moon’s illumination, she saw the woman on her knees. Two of the four figures that were standing around her were holding her by her outstretched arms. Where was the fifth?

A grunt sounded and then the woman’s right arm was jerked out. A popping sound echoed and her arm came free. Blood spewed as she screamed. The one who ripped off her arm peeled the fabric away and began eating the flesh. They were all looking at her.

Maria didn’t react. They wanted her to see the woman die.

The woman continued to scream as her other arm was removed.

It took everything Maria had in her not to attack. But there was something she could do.

Raising her rifle, she took as best aim as possible and fired. The screaming woman’s head burst apart. The figures howled. The headless corpse flopped to the ground as it was released. Their plan hadn’t worked and they were pissed.

Maria surveyed the yard, looking for the fifth intruder. The couple had sounded so sure there were five.

Movement from above caught her attention. A fraction of a second later the fifth member of the party landed in front of her like some supervillain out of a comic book. It swatted the M4 out of her hands. The weapon clanged against the door frame. The tall figure swiped at Maria, but she managed to spring backward as its clawed hand whizzed past her nose. She landed on her back and drew her sidearm. Her attacker leaped like a panther.

She fired, pulling the trigger three times.

Brains exploded out the back of the thing’s head before it landed on her, knocking the wind from her lungs. She couldn’t call out and warn her friends that the enemy might be on their way inside.

Mustering her strength, she rolled the dead body off her and sucked in a breath. The air was fetid, like rotting meat. Her stomach churned. She remained on her back, gun pointed at the open doorway. If they were coming, she’d take out as many as she could.

“Maria?” It was Jack’s voice. He was checking on her.

When nothing came through the door, she got to her feet.  “I’m fine. Stay there.” She needed her rifle, the M4 just outside the door. Moving forward, she approached the doorway and saw the maniacs charging. What had taken them so long to decide to do so was baffling, but there they were. They all held melee weapons, one with a leg in its hand.

She had a decision to make. Fight or retreat. A decision that could mean the difference between life and death for her and her friends. She could maybe take out one or two. Maybe. Then she’d be overrun. They would either kill her outright or use her as a hostage. Both results would be a detriment to the team.

Having made her decision, she grabbed the M4 and bolted back inside. As she ran down the hall to the den she alerted the others.

“How many are coming?” Jack asked.

“Four. One’s dead.”  Maria took up position next to Henry.

The intruders roared and smashed the walls with their weapons as they raced down the hall. Maria took aim at the lead attacker and fired her rifle. The rest of the room followed suit, thunderous, ear-deafening gunshots shattering the air. The target’s filthy shirt fluttered as bullets tore through it and into flesh. Its neck blew apart, sending gore against the wall, and then two bullets ripped through its skull. Its brains decorated the wall before its feet flew out from under it. Its brethren trampled it without slowing only to be met with more bullets.

They pushed forward, tossing the couch aside. Inside the room, they held their arms in front of their faces as if they were warding off spitballs. Another bot-thing fell as a bullet sent its brains across a female attacker’s face. She shrieked as a bullet removed her nose, but she kept coming. She swung her machete two-handed at Jack like a wood-cutter splitting a log. He sidestepped out of the way, the blade missing him by an inch. She was quick and about to strike again when Maria aimed her gun and fired, sending a bullet into the attacker’s eye socket, and then brain.

The remaining attacker dove at Zaun. Its body was riddled with holes, head streaked with blood where bullets had grazed it. Zaun stepped back, withdrew his sword and sliced outward, the pose Samurai-perfect. His attacker’s head hit the floor a moment later.

The room fell silent.

“Is that all of them?” Henry asked. “I think my gun is empty.”

“Yeah,” Maria said, chest heaving.

“The woman?” Zaun asked.

Maria shook her head. “Dead.”

“Damn,” Zaun said, and kicked the headless corpse.

Chapter 19

 

After the attack, the group slept in shifts. Two were always on guard. But the rest of the night went without a problem. The bodies were placed outside the backdoor until morning when they were piled onto a sled and taken up the road and dumped. The house was cleaned up as best as possible, the windows boarded over and the back door reattached. Henry was going to stay at the house. He couldn’t take the chance of his wife being shot by someone on the outside. Once she was normal again, he’d head over to the base. By then, the snow would be gone and he’d be okay and able to drive the Chevy Blazer.

Jack wasn’t sure the man was making the correct decision, for no one knew what the future of the undead would be, but Henry told him he’d forgone leaving before when he had the chance and wasn’t about to give up now. He’d probably die if he lost his wife anyway. Without her, and with his family gone, there’d be nothing to live for. He was old and had had a good life.

The weather was getting warmer, the air with less of a chill in it. The snow was melting from the rooftops and trees under the clear sky and the sun’s bright rays. The white stuff was still too plentiful and deep to warrant ditching the snowmobiles for a car or SUV, but Jack couldn’t wait for the day he’d be able to drive again. He was sick and tired of the cold and the snow and the darkness that came with winter.

They saw plenty of signs of life along their trek to the Air Force Base. Houses with operating chimneys, vehicle tracks, footprints, and a few people who had been just as curious as they were to see others. The snowmobiles were loud and had obviously alerted people to their presence. One young girl even waved at them.

These sights brought hope to Jack’s heart and warmness to his soul. The land had seemed so ominous and hopeless, only filled with evildoers, but the people of Cliff House, Henry and these other normal survivors were good people. The world might have fallen, may have been changed forever, become tougher to live in, but people’s spirits wouldn’t be crushed or annihilated. It wasn’t only the bad that survived.

As they approached the base, Henry's directions spot-on, a fighter jet flew overhead. The entrance was plowed, the asphalt beneath clearly revealed. There was no pile of corpses or bodies strewn about as he'd expected. But there was a ten-foot high wall. A number of armed guards were atop it, including a soldier manning a 50 caliber machine gun. All weapons were pointed at the new arrivals.

The snowmobiles stopped twenty feet from the entrance, engines killed. Jack removed his helmet and waited a moment to see if one of the soldiers would speak. When no one did, he said, " Hello," and gave a friendly wave. "We seek refuge."

"Are any of you infected?" one of the soldiers asked.

Jack was about to say no, then wondered if he should consider himself infected. Contagious even. Thinking about it, Zaun and Maria had gotten his blood all over themselves and neither showed signs of bot activity. 

"No," he said, deciding it wisest. 

"Leave the vehicles and stand on the pavement," the soldier said.

Jack and the others left their gear on the sleds and did as they were told.

"We're going to blast you with an EMP. Precautionary method of ensuring the base remains uninfected."

"They know about the bots," Zaun said softly.

"It would appear so," Jack said.

Maria shushed them and said, "Keep quiet, we don't know what they know. We act ignorant about everything until it's time not to."

Maria was right. If the soldiers knew about the bots, it could be because they have a science division set up and are studying them. They could possibly have been in league with Reynolds for all Jack knew. Part of that branch of the military.

Another soldier came into view and was holding a strange looking gun. It had a satellite dish-like end where normally the barrel would be. Curled wires ran from the stock’s end to a large, square backpack. Another soldier appeared next to him holding an identical looking item. Both men pointed their weapons at Jack and the others.

Jack sucked in a frigid breath, pulse quickening. He had no idea what the EMP would do to him, to the bots coursing through his body. Yes, he was healed, but would his body break down if the bots were killed? Was his body reliant on the little things?

Suddenly, getting hit with an EMP seemed like a terrible idea. Maybe he should have asked if his sister was inside before agreeing to enter. Staring at the electrical weapons, he knew it was too late to change his mind now.

The EMP rifles jerked in the soldiers’ arms as they were fired, the sound they emitted like a dull thud. Jack tensed. Breath held, he closed his eyes, but then opened them, not wanting to appear afraid. The military could not find out about his situation, about what he was. If they did, he’d become a human guinea pig.

“Leave your weapons with your vehicles,” the soldier who’d been doing the talking said. “Take only personal items and food.”

Jack couldn’t believe he was still holding his breath and exhaled. He felt okay. Actually, he felt the same. Fine.

“We’re not leaving our weapons here,” Maria said.

“They’ll be put in storage,” the soldier said. “Should you want to leave, you’ll have them back. Otherwise, you can hop back on your machines and head somewhere else.”

Jack was so incredibly grateful he hadn’t died, he spoke up and agreed for the others. They would all do as they were asked. Maria reiterated that she didn’t like it but went along. Guns, Tasers, knives, grenades and Zaun’s sword were all left with the snowmobiles. The front gate opened and three armed soldiers came to greet them. The trio were then escorted up a snow-cleared road.

“I’m looking for my sister,” Jack said as they made their way toward a set of buildings. “Would someone know if she’s here?”

“There’s a list of all civilian occupants outside the mess hall,” one of the soldiers said. “The reason it’s there is exactly for a situation like yours. Lots of loved ones searching for one another.”

“How many people are here?” Jack asked.

“The numbers vary. People are coming and going all the time. Flown out. Soldiers flown in. The military needs troops. This base does have a capacity limit, but it’s a large one. If I had to guess, I’d say there are around 3,000 people on post.”

Jack couldn’t believe the number was so small.

“Don’t look so grim,” the soldier said. “We’ve probably had close to 20,000 people pass through here. That’s not a huge number either, but when you see what’s happened to the world, the numbers quite large.”

They arrived at one of the housing units and were shown to their room, one they had to share with three other people. There was heat, electric and running water. Maria and Zaun showered. Unable to wait, Jack forewent getting clean and rushed over to the mess hall to view the civilian list. After searching through too numerous an amount of names to count, he found Sara’s name. It wasn’t crossed off and highlighted, meaning she was still on the base and had not been transferred. 

Jack’s heart swelled. She was alive and on the premises—at least if the board of names was up to date. Jack asked a man coming out of the mess hall if that was the case. The guy said it was as far as he was aware, that anyone who left the base was supposed to cross out their name and highlight it.

Jack checked the mess hall, but didn’t find Sara. He asked a guard who told him to go to another building where an announcement was made asking Sara Warren to come to the mess hall.

Twenty minutes later, she arrived. Jack’s eyes nearly leaped out of their sockets. She looked the same, if not a bit thinner. She met his gaze, their eyes locking. Disbelief masked her face, but quickly transformed into recognition. Her face brightened. “Jack?” she asked.

He nodded as tears fell from his cheeks. After all he’d been through, the doubt, the odds . . . He’d not only made it, but so had she.

“Am I dreaming?” she asked, approaching him slowly.

He hurried over to her and wrapped her up in a hug. They remained as one for some time, sharing tears and exchanging the love only family can share.

When they finally separated, they’d briefly chatted, asking one another how things were. Sara looked haggard, but who didn’t. He asked about her husband, not wanting to say his name, and she shook her head. He’d gotten taken down by a group of undead.

They went back to Jack’s room where he introduced Sara to Maria and Zaun. Pleasantries were exchanged and all three talked late into the night.

The next day, through the proper channels, Maria asked about getting to North Carolina. She tried to find out if her family was alive and where they might be, but the task was impossible. A week later, as sad as it was to see her go and after tearful goodbyes, she boarded a plane heading to Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Jack, Sara and Zaun remained on the military base. Jack sliced his finger to test if the bots were still active, and when he didn’t heal so quickly and wasn’t ravished by hunger, knew the answer. He was normal again and glad to be so.

BOOK: Machines of the Dead 3
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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