The Renegades 2 Aftermath (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Thriller)

BOOK: The Renegades 2 Aftermath (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Thriller)
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The Renegades 2
Book Two: Aftermath
The Renegades 2
Book Two: Aftermath
Jack Hunt

C
opyright
© 2016 by Jack Hunt

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

THE RENEGADES 2: AFTERMATH
is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

F
or Dax
, Baja, Specs, Jess, Izzy, Ralphie, Ben and Elijah

N
o man is
good enough to govern another man without the other's consent.

Abraham Lincoln

Synopsis
The Renegades 2: Aftermath


N
on stop action
, laughter, and bucket loads of tension. This is the group you want on your side when the SHTF!”

After surviving a deadly outbreak in the small town of Castle Rock, Nevada, an even greater nightmare is in store for this daring band of misfits as they go to Salt Lake City in search of a safe zone. Forced to learn how to survive in a world gone mad while facing hordes of the dead may not be the biggest threat in this apocalypse.

Prologue


J
ohnny
, are you sure this camera’s working?”

I cleared my throat. Okay, so it’s finally happened! The shit has really hit the fan. I’m talking about an out of control, fasten your seat belt and don’t forget to bring a spare pair of underpants, kind of deal.

That’s right — America is now knee-deep in a zombie apocalypse.

But before we get to the juicy part about how some idiot hit the wrong button, I should probably bring you up to speed on what triumphant acts occurred prior to penning this beauty.

Now, my friend Johnny wanted me to leave this part out — but like I told him. If I’m gonna die, you can bet your ass I want the world to know about our heroic deeds. I mean, who knows? Maybe it will go viral, if they ever get the power back up.

By the way, I’m Nick Halliway, or as my friends like to call me, Baja, after I took my parents’ 1979 Country Squire station wagon for an off-road joyride at the age of twelve.

What an epic moment that was.

In fact, do you know I can still hear the sirens of the boys in blue ringing in my ears six years later?

Ah…good times!

Anyway, back to this hellish nightmare that we find ourselves in.

After all hell broke loose in our small town of Castle Rock, Nevada, we lost Matt our closest friend and pretty much every family member. We encountered a bunch of pyschobillies being led by an asshole who called himself the Colonel. We rescued two local girls who were being held captive, and I hung from a wire over a sinkhole caused by igniting one-hundred-year-old dynamite. Which by the way blew up half the town.

“Baja! You didn’t hang from the wire, I did,” Johnny hollered from his bed in a motel room.

“You say tomato, I say tomahto. Why are we splitting hairs here?”

“Listen, I told you that you could do the first part of this story on one condition — that you tell the truth.”

“This is the truth. Alright, hypothetically it wasn’t me hanging there, but our lives were hanging in the balance, so… it kind of was me.”

“It wasn’t.”

“It was.”

Whatever. So we are currently on our way to Salt Lake City in the grand hope of finding a safe zone with bunch of folks who don’t want to take a chunk out of our ass. Personally, I’m just hoping the safe zone isn’t some biker bar full of greasy ass motherfuckers who just escaped from prison. As I, for one, am not bunking with anyone by the name of Bubba.

So the world’s gone to hell and somehow we’ve managed to survive.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking why us? To be honest, I’m not sure.

But, I’ll leave the rest of the story for Johnny to tell.

Signing out for now. This is Nick “Baja” Halliway, the one who will eventually save the world. You have my word on that!

“Baja!”

“Okay, I gotta go.”

THE HERD

A
lot
of shit can happen over the course of five hundred and twenty-four miles. That was the distance between Castle Rock and Salt Lake City. We had driven east, taken the I-80 without knowing what to expect. What should have been eight hours with minimal traffic took days. It was far worse than we had imagined. For as far as the eye could see, flames smoldered furiously from vehicles, bodies lay in various stages of decomposition, while the undead moved like an army.

The first five nights we holed up in a rundown motel called the Wagon Safari just on the outskirts of Lovelock, Nevada. I wanted to keep moving but Dax insisted we stay. I still had wounds that needed to heal, he said. I was sure that the damage was bad because my pant legs were soaked in blood. Thankfully the first bullet hadn’t hit a major artery or bone. It hadn’t even got lodged in my thigh. It was a clean shot. The second had only grazed my calf. Regardless, the scarring would be brutal. After being sewn up, I spent the next five days resting. We took turns keeping watch while others slept. It was a painful time but I was lucky to have made it out with all my limbs intact.

Once we got back on the road, I was just glad to get the hell out of there. There had been a few close calls, and everyone was starting to get a little anxious. Our fears weren’t just of encountering more Z’s but the living insane. The crazies. Those who knew nothing more than killing.

We traveled for another day. It was slow and all of us were worn out.

I jolted awake to the warmth of the cab.

“Johnny, you okay?”

I blinked hard.

“Yeah.”

I wondered if the Colonel had survived. Several nights I had dreamt of him crawling out of that hole. Each time I would see him reach the top. He would fix his milky white gaze on me. Blood gushed from his mouth as he’d claw his way towards me. I never saw what happened next as I would wake up sweating profusely.

None of us had spoken about what went down in Castle Rock. In many ways we were still in shock trying to come to terms with the fact that our lives would never be the same again.

I gazed out the window. It was close to midnight. We had been on the road for hours, and yet barely made any progress in reaching the city. The truck wound its way around vehicles that were clogging up the highway. You couldn’t exactly drive in a line. There were too many abandoned. As we came over a rise in the road we saw what looked like a twenty vehicle pileup. Dax made a decision to rest there for the night, siphon vehicles of gas, and look for food. We had done it several times. That night it was a big mistake.

T
wenty minutes later
, I inhaled hard trying to catch my breath. A flurry of anxious thoughts assaulted me as I lay beneath a burnt out 4 x 4 truck, staring at Jess and Izzy who had squeezed under a camper trailer. The sounds of moaning filled the air. It had been peaceful for a while. Baja and Specs were going from vehicle to vehicle removing as much as gas as they could with some plastic tubing. Jess and Izzy searched vehicles for food while I kept a lookout. Millie and Caitlin were asleep inside the truck. Dax had told me to stay off the leg for at least another week, but that had gone over about as well as most of his commands.

There was an eerie feel to being out in the middle of a highway at night. Add to that seeing vehicles abandoned and the knowledge that people didn’t just vanish. It had all of us on high alert. Suitcases were littered all over the place. Any food that I had found in previous days had become rotten. We now searched for canned goods or anything with high sodium content. Anything that might last longer than its expiration date. Both sides of the road were hedged in by a thick pine forest, behind that were snow-peaked mountains. Most of the time we had to drive on the hard shoulder because of how badly the roads were clogged up. Even then it was like navigating our way through a minefield. Sometimes we had to get out and push cars out of the way. Other times we just plowed through them. You never quite knew what you were going to encounter next. I’d like to say we were adapting to our new way of living but we weren’t.

Once again we were facing the dead. Initially I thought it was just one; a straggler that had emerged from the forest. It soon turned into two, three, and then an entire herd broke out of the tree line. There was no time to shout. Dax was further down the road keeping an eye on that end. The two girls were somewhere in the middle and Baja and Specs were closest to me.

I slid off the roof and hightailed it over to Baja. He was making some joke about the way Specs was sucking at the tube. After alerting them, Specs shot over to Jess. Izzy whistled to Dax and all of us hit the floor. We scrambled under the closest vehicles and waited. Now you would think that would keep us safe, but it doesn’t. It wasn’t the first time we had to do it. The last time was about an hour outside of Castle Rock. I was still bleeding back then, and I swear they could smell fresh blood because as I lay quietly beneath a truck, a meaty hand tried to grab me. Luckily Dax was there and he gave the Z a third eye. All of us knew the plan. If you ever got into a bind, you were to cover yourself in zombie guts. It didn’t always work but it increased the odds of surviving. Right now there was no time to do that.

As we waited under the vehicles for the herd to pass by, what we hadn’t anticipated was Caitlin and Millie waking up. They were completely oblivious to what was taking place. It was Caitlin’s voice I heard first, then her scream.

“Guys? Anyone?”

There was no way of knowing if she had been bit or not. I couldn’t get out even if I wanted to, as both sides of the truck I was under were blocked by Z’s. Helplessly, I listened to her screaming. Then I heard bullets. All I could see in the darkness were legs. It was like a human centipede. Most shuffled, others moved fast making their way in the direction of her voice.

Then it went dead silent. My eyes remained on Jess and Izzy. Both of them looked scared. We waited until there were no more Z’s passing before inching out. Further down, Dax was already out. He retracted his knife from the skull of a Z. Its body flopped to the ground. He stared down, paying no attention to us coming up from the rear.

As I drew closer I noticed what he was staring at. It was Millie. My eyes darted to the truck. Inside Caitlin was sobbing her eyes out. I didn’t even need to motion to Jess. She and Izzy were already opening the door and trying to console her. She was beside herself. So choked up she couldn’t even get a word out. When the words came, they were pushed through tears and gasps for air.

“Slow down, take a deep breath,” Izzy said.

In the distance we could see a few of the remaining herd disappearing into the tree line. They had crossed from one side to the next. That was it. But in the process they had taken another life. We had barely had the chance to get to know Millie.

Now, we wouldn’t.

Dax didn’t wait for her to turn. He ran his knife into Millie’s forehead. Thankfully Caitlin didn’t see it. Baja grabbed a blanket from a vehicle and covered her corpse. It had been a while since we had lost anyone. It once again was a wakeup call to all of us to be vigilant. It could have been any of us.

We didn’t stay there any longer. Not that we couldn’t have locked ourselves in the truck. But the majority wanted to move on. Psychologically we didn’t know how death affected any of us. Each of us was dealing with the loss of our families in our own way. But none of us except Dax and I had witnessed a family member being eaten alive. Caitlin was already suffering from her time in the silo. They had murdered her father, and now her sister was dead.

“Specs, gather the cans of gasoline. We are moving out.”

He nodded and Baja went with him.

I knew the moment we were all inside the truck, Dax would begin. He’d been holding it back since Castle Rock but I could tell he was just waiting for the right time.

“We need some ground rules,” he said.

“Oh great,” I heard Baja mutter.

“We stick together in twos. None of us ventures out without informing whoever is staying behind as to your whereabouts.”

It was a little too late.

We later learned from Jess that Caitlin and Millie had stepped out either side of the vehicle. Millie was bitten before her sister could do anything. By the time she reacted she had no other option than to dive back into the truck or she would have died too.

It was quiet in the truck as we continued on our way. Specs had retrieved very little gas from the vehicles, and what he had managed to store in a container was knocked over when the herd came through. We were getting used to living on very little. Most of the time you could hear our stomachs rumble. As strange as it may sound, in the first few days after leaving Castle Rock, there would be an air of excitement, accomplishment even, when a Z was killed. Maybe because we thought we were ridding the world of the infected. It soon dissipated, as it became the norm. Soon what little discussion we had between us was about what we needed: food, supplies, and directions. We pushed through each day as we made our way to Salt Lake City.

THE HITCHER

I
thought
I had seen it all but clearly not.

Now my father would say there were only three rules a man should live by. Never turn down a drink, always wear a hat on your bat, and whatever the fuck you do, don’t pick up a hitcher.

I knew we should have listened to him.

“Guys, you just drove past someone.” Jess thumbed over her shoulder.

“I didn’t see anyone, did you?” Baja asked.

I cast a glance to my left and right. “Nah,” I replied with a smirk.

Now the guy was no ordinary hitcher sticking out his thumb. He was all arms and legs. Running for his life from a group of eight Z’s. Imagine a beached whale. You got that? That would be kind of close to what this guy looked like. There was a whole lot of junk in his trunk. We would have left him far behind if it wasn’t for Jess and Izzy. Their hearts were bigger than their brains, Baja told them later. Oh, don’t worry, he has a bruised arm to remind him never to say that out loud. Nine times out of ten he was wrong, but in this instance, he was right on the money.

She tapped Dax on the arm. “Dax, stop.”

Now Dax at the best of times doesn’t like people telling him what to do. I haven’t a clue how the hell he made his way through boot camp. The guy was hard-wired to say
no
to practically anything except a pair of legs in a skirt. He continued driving until the constant nagging from Jess and Izzy made him slam the brakes on. We all jerked forward, nearly embedding our teeth into the interior. He shifted into reverse until he was within a few feet of the guy.

Jess cracked the door.

He waved us on. “Go. Go, I’ll jump in the back.”

Dax waited until we heard the sound of a thud landing in the back. I swear we caught some air and experienced for a few brief seconds what it must have been like to be in zero gravity. There was no time to adjust to our new visitor as two of the Z’s were already clambering onto the back of the truck.

“Ahhh, help,” the guy screamed.

Specs and I jumped out. Specs fired a round into one of their heads. I took out the other one. It had a hold of him and was scraping at the guy’s clothes when I slammed the knife into the back of its head. I yanked it out and some of the blood flicked onto him. You should have heard him scream. It was unnatural. Like a five-year-old having their rattle taken from them.

“Get it off. Get it off,” he yelled.

Meanwhile Specs and Jess took out three more Z’s.

“Calm down.”

He was pushing back at the Z with his feet and trying to wipe the blood. Even when it was gone and all that remained was a smear he still screamed. Jess was wide-eyed. Baja was roaring with laughter. I jumped up onto the truck bed and he raised his hands, cowering back as though I was about to knife him.

“It’s okay.” I slotted the blade back into the sheath on my thigh and held up my hands so he could see I was no threat.

“Please. Get this off.”

Tears were pouring down his face.

“Get what off?”

He stared at his hand as if he had contracted some foreign disease.

“The blood? You can’t turn from having their blood on you.”

He nodded. “Yes. You can.”

Specs frowned and twirled his finger around near his own ear as if to indicate the guy had lost his marbles. For a moment I did think of just tossing him from the truck. Who knew what trouble he could give us? I certainly didn’t like the idea of some head case being close to Jess.

I took a hold of his hands and brought them together but he wrestled them from my grip. He kept staring at them. So I did what any logical person does when someone is acting like a complete loon. I slapped him.

“Snap out of it, you idiot.”

And like that the guy seemed to come to his senses.

“Johnny!” Jess said in protest.

I shrugged.

“The old slap him silly trick,” Baja muttered. “Shit, I should have thought of that. It’s a lot of fun too,” he said before giving Specs a slap as he hopped back into the cab.

“Dude, what the hell?” Specs griped.

Baja chuckled.

Once I was satisfied the guy wasn’t going to lose it — I joined the others inside.

When I jumped in the suspension barely moved. It was already squished to its max. I had visions of the back tires being stuck in mud with all that weight, thankfully that wasn’t the case. Dax gunned it before the others who were dragging ass caught up.

“Be nice,” Jess said to me. I rolled my eyes.

She slid back the window on the cab.

“Hey thanks, I thought I was going to become zombie chow back there.”

“What’s your name?”

“Ralph, but my pals call me...”

He paused for a second to catch his breath. Baja jumped on it.

“...dumbass?” Baja added.

Izzy slapped him.

“Shit, Izzy, you need to ease up.”

“My pals call me Ralphie.”

“I would have never guessed that,” Specs muttered.

“Where you from?” Dax yelled from the front. Ralphie stuck his head into the opening, filling what little space there was with skin.

“Wells.”

“You?” he asked.

“Castle Cock,” Baja said, lighting a cigarette.

“Ignore him, he has mental problems,” Izzy said glaring at Baja.

Ralphie’s eyes darted between all of us.

“Wells, Nevada. We’ll be passing through there on the way to Salt Lake City.”

“Not much left. I barely managed to escape.”

Suddenly, Dax slammed the brakes on and jumped out.

“Strip down,” he said to Ralphie.

“What?”

“You heard me.”

I ducked my head out the window.

“Okay, Dax, I know you’ve always been one for the lads. There’s no shame in that, but eh, I think you might want to go on a first date.”

“At least buy him flowers,” Baja added.

Dax rolled his eyes. “I’m checking for bites, morons.”

“I’m not bitten.”

Dax motioned with his Glock for him to get out of the back. Once again we had to feel our stomachs fly up into our throats as Ralphie hopped off the back of the truck. He glanced at Jess, Izzy, and Caitlin and went a deep shade of red.

“Dax, is this really necessary?” Izzy asked.

Dax ignored her. His eyes were fixed on Ralphie who was sweating and looking dark around the eyes. He had a point. We had no idea if one of those Z’s had taken a chunk out of him. We were surprised that he had even managed to outrun them.

“Do you even remember seeing him by the side of the road?” Specs asked me.

“What do you mean?” I said quietly.

“If I wasn’t mistaken he just appeared out of nowhere.”

While we were talking Ralphie had begun stripping down to his tighty-whiteys. Baja started swirling his groin around while hollering, “Key the music. Yeah! Magic Mike is in the house. Bust a move.”

“Sit the hell down,” Dax yelled.

I think I actually caught Izzy smirk which only made Ralphie go a deeper shade of red.

Dax walked around him.

“Like what you see?” I shouted to Dax. Dax flipped me the bird.

“Skiddddyyy,” Baja yelled, referring to the brown trace of shit on the poor guy’s underpants.

“Baja, I swear you have the mind of a twelve-year-old.”

“Sweet cheeks, admit it. You have a thing for me,” Baja replied back.

Izzy screwed up her face and threw up her middle finger.

“All right. Sorry to make you do that. But we have to be careful,” Dax said.

Ralphie pulled his clothes on like an embarrassed young virgin and Dax got back into the truck.

“Here. You might want this.” Jess shoved her coat through the window. It was cold outside. Just with the windows down we were getting chilled. I had visions of arriving in Salt Lake City and Ralphie frozen to death in the back of the truck. As soon as he was back in, Dax floored it.

I looked over his shoulder and could see we were down to a quarter of a tank of gas. Definitely not enough to get us to the city.

“We need to stop for gas.”

Dax glanced down. “We’ll try the next town.”

“There’s nothing there. I saw it on my way out. It’s been looted,” Ralphie said. “In fact, you’re better off giving Wells a wide berth too. A lot of asshats there.”

Dax eyed him in his rearview mirror. I could tell he was skeptical of our new addition. We all were. It wasn’t that we weren’t open to have another with us. In all honesty it was a good thing. Baja had leaned back and asked me what I thought of having him tagging along. I told him it was one more person to fire a gun. He replied, “Yeah. I guess in the worst-case scenario, we could feed him to the Z’s and make a run for it.” He grinned. I could always trust Baja to find some odd angle.

We drove a few more miles until we came across the town that Ralphie was on about. It was called Halleck, Nevada. He wasn’t kidding. The place was a total ghost town. It consisted of two buildings: a post office and a gas station. Dax slowed down to a crawl while we took in the sight of the burnt-out post office.

“Shit, and there was me thinking of sending a postcard back to Castle Rock,” Specs said.

The gas station was in a far worse state. A truck had been driven right into the single gas pump they had. What remained of it lay black and burnt. The building had been leveled by the explosion. None of the charred bodies appeared to be moving.

“You think we have enough to make it to Wells?”

“How far is it from here, Ralphie?” Dax asked.

He pushed his face through the open slot like an eager pug dog.

“It’s a thirty-minute drive.”

Dax sniffed hard. “I guess we should have enough. There’s gas stations there, yeah?”

“How are you going to get gas out of them if there is no electricity?” Ralphie asked.

“Couple of ways. Open the covers where they refill the tanks. Unless the underground containers have been destroyed, there is going to be some inside. Or you can get the side covers off the gas pumps and then slip a hose and siphon out that way,” Specs said as he continued to try the portable radio for a signal.

“I just think you’d be better off going around Wells.”

That was it. Dax stopped the vehicle and turned in his seat.

“What are you not telling us?”

“Just saying. It’s probably best you avoid Wells.”

“What is there?”

Ralphie gulped. His eyes dropped.

“You want to walk?” Dax said.

“Dax,” I said.

“No,” he spat back. “If we are driving into an ambush. I want to know.”

“It’s not an ambush. But let’s just say the people have gone a little crazy there.”

“How crazy?”

Ralphie slumped back down, not wanting to answer that.

“Let me handle this,” I said. Dax shook his head.

I hopped out of the truck and came around to the side. I gazed out at the desert that was now covered in snow. The clouds had come down so it looked almost like a fine mist was hovering above the ground. I leaned against the truck, nodded to Jess and she pulled the sliding rear window closed.

“Listen. We’ve lost a lot of people: family, friends. Forgive my brother for being a little cautious but you aren’t the first person we have allowed to get close only to have them screw us over. Now if there is anything we need to know before driving through that town, you need to tell us now, because…” I scratched the side of my head. “I might let it slide. But my brother, he’s liable to put a bullet in your head if he thinks for one moment you are up to something.”

“I’m not. I just don’t want to go back there.”

“But you knew we were heading that way.”

“Yeah, but I thought you might be taking a different route.”

“Ralphie, do you have any family?”

His eyes dropped. He shook his head.

“How did you lose them?”

He cleared his throat, looked out, and shivered slightly.

“My father was the first to turn.”

He had this faraway look in his eyes as if he was recalling everything that had taken place.

“I had two sisters, one brother. All of them died. I saw him kill them all. I can still hear their screams.” He paused and looked down. “I couldn’t take it. My sister was calling out my name, screaming for me to come and help. I could have saved her and I didn’t. I ran. I just ran. I couldn’t take hearing her call for me.”

“Man…” I trailed off.

“I know, I’m a coward, you don’t need to say it.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think you’re a coward. We’ve all lost people. None of us were prepared for this.”

“Did you run? I mean. Leave anyone behind?” he asked.

I thought of Matt. There was nothing I could do for him. I didn’t see him get bit and I know it wasn’t him that I shot. But I could still see his face. Still hear the sound of his cry in my ears. The fear that had overtaken me. The impulse to survive was overwhelming.

I didn’t answer his question.

“Is the place overrun with Z’s?”

“No.” He wiped his nose of a tear that had fallen. “There are others there. Vile fuckers.”

“Like?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want talk about. Just trust me. You don’t want to drive through there.”

I studied his face, trying to gauge if he was lying or not. I didn’t get a sense that he was being deceitful. He had experienced something that had shaken him to the core. Perhaps it was just the shock of seeing his family die or maybe it was something far worse.

I slipped back into the truck and for a few seconds I didn’t say anything.

“So?” Dax asked.

“Well. We are nearly out of gas. Even if we wanted to go around the town we couldn’t. It’s the closest town from here.”

Izzy leaned over and squinted at the gas gauge.

“We’ll be lucky if we even make it there,” she said.

“What did he say?” Dax asked inquisitively.

“It doesn’t matter, Dax. We just need to be ready. Get in, get some gas, and get out.”

Everyone stared at me then looked at Ralphie who was now huddled into a ball on the back of the truck bed.

“Maybe I’ll take a turn out there,” Specs said. With that he jumped out, Ralphie glanced up, Specs thumbed for him to get in the truck. As we rolled out of Halleck our minds were no longer on gas. We were preoccupied by what was to be found in Wells, Nevada.

BOOK: The Renegades 2 Aftermath (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Thriller)
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