The rec room is alive with the sounds of the heavily burdened looking to relax. Those who’ve volunteered to take on the role of being A Real American Hero wind down after the day’s various missions and jobs. In the middle of the room a pool cue connects with the 8 ball sending it rattling down the corner pocket. Towards the back, gathered around an ancient arcade cabinet the blip blip blip of Pac-Man plays as some Joes try to outdo the high score. Along the front wall, sounds of motorcycles racing comes from the tv mounted on the wall while several people relax on the thread bear sofa, “Man, Akira was a badass.”
“The hell you talking about Scrounge? That ain’t Akira.” Gunsmith scoffs.
“Yeah, it is. He’s the damn hero.”
“Man, that’s Kaneda. Have you even been watching this movie.” The banter is interrupted as Blacksmith rushes in and grabs the remote, “Hey! We’re watching that.” Blacksmith ignores the protestations of his colleagues. He turns to CNC, Cobra News Central.
“... the terrorists escaped after murdering 64 refugees looking for safe haven. As well as 16 brave heroes.” The camera cuts away from the newscaster and to a screen with “Warning” in large red letters, “We must warn you. The footage may be disturbing to some viewers.” The screen splits into multiple camera angles. The images flashing across the screen show the scared faces of people who had survived the years of facing the undead. men, women, children huddled together, cringing at sounds coming from outside their covered transports. Then the unthinkable happens, the convoy vehicles explode one after another. Multiple cameras show Throttle and GP running from behind a pile of wrecked cars. The feeds cut to static. The camera returns to the ghost white newscaster as he tries to compose himself, “Our hearts go out to these refugees who faced head on and survived the unthinkable to finally find sanctuary, only to be murdered by terrorists. We keep the memories of the heroic men and women in uniform that accompanied them and did all they could to keep them safe before being ambushed by cowards.” The anchor reaches for his ear, “My producers tell me we are cutting away for an important message from the Commander.”
“What the fuck!” Throttle exclaims having walked in with GP after the pair had spent time with BumbleBee.
All eyes turn towards Throttle and GP. “That’s not what happened!”
“It doesn’t matter.” The Boss enters the room. “This is what’s being broadcast. We know they doctored the footage. It really doesn’t matter though. This broadcast is going world-wide. Anyone and everyone with any kind of receiver is seeing or hearing this. They’re painting us as The Enemy.” The Boss steps further in the room, jaw dropped.
The Joes turn back to the TV. “Is that...?” The words trail off as Bowyer is stunned into silence.
“Sure as shit looks like it.” Sparrow rasps.
On the screen, the President of the United States stands next to Cobra Commander. The Commander steps back from the podium his words missed by the watching Joes, the POTUS steps up, “Thank you Commander. Thank you on behalf of the people of the United States. Thank you for the safe haven you are providing for all those innocent people looking to live in peace once again.” The President turns towards Cobra Commander and offers his hand. The Commander shakes it firmly. “Sadly, there are still those that want to destroy the safety and security you offer.” Looking defiantly into the camera, “The attacks today on unarmed civilians looking for safety are unconscionable. The terrorists calling themselves G.I.Joe are a menace. They hide behind a name long reserved for the finest military men and women our once great nation could produce. Now sullied by the actions of lawless cowards.” Anger clear on his face he continues, “The government of the United States does not condone the actions or the terrorists. We stand strong with the people of New Springfield and all those under the protection of Cobra.
In a time when we are still fighting off the undead it is unfortunate that we need to waste our limited and valuable resources to combat an Enemy that stoops to murdering innocents that just wanted a safe place to live.
Yet, this is where we find ourselves.
We are offering all remaining resources of the United States to Cobra in cooperation for bringing down these terrorists. Including our newly formed anti-terror squad.”
The President gestures to his right, the camera pans revealing a group of ten men and women in varying uniforms. The audible gasp from The Boss gets all eyes on him. The Joes look at their leader, it is his turn for the color to drain from his face. On the tv the men and women stand at rigid attention. Thousand yard stares look into the television camera sending chills down The Boss’ spine. The camera slowly pans from one face to the next.
“I am proud to reintroduce the world to;
Chuckles, Dialtone, Sneak Peek, Outback, Jinx, Blackout, Bombstrike, Barrel Roll, Grand Slam, and Firewall.
The Cobra HEAT.”
“That thing out there today. It was... it looked like... Was it one of you.”
“I don’t know.” The robot sits on the cold polished concrete floor and pensively looks down using a metallic finger to flick at nothing, “I thought. I was. The only one.” His voice snaps and pops from his speakers as he uses radio clips stored in his memory banks to express himself, his voice module destroyed in a time forgotten. He looks up his blue glowing eyes washing Throttle in the color of his sadness.
“It sure as "LASER BLAST" was. You saw that thing Thro...” Throttle delivers a quick jab to GP’s side, “Umph! What the...” she goes to do it again only GP backs up tripping over a haphazardly placed wrench and falls flat on his ass.
“I told you to put the tools away.” Throttle shoots a look at GP ego bruised on the floor. Then it clicks.
On a scavenging mission Throttle and GP entered the abandoned but locked up garage. They picked the lock, the taste of mold hung in the air. They inched their way past industrial shelving each overflowing with old world tech. When they first saw BumbleBee he sat surrounded by mildew stained sagging stacks of cardboard boxes vomiting their contents of computers, tablets, phones, anything with a chip or processing power onto the floor. They watched silently from behind cover. Unsure of what to do. It was GP that silently raised his rifle first. Throttle followed.
“It’s okay. Just do it. I won’t stop you.” The voice made up of radio clips, a song lyric here, a DJ’s voice there, took them by surprise. GP squeezed the trigger as Throttle shouldered him to the side. His fire went wild completely missing the metallic creature before them. The yellow creature didn’t react. It didn’t flinch. It welcomed death. When it saw the sparks off to its right it turned towards the two.
Throttle stood and lowered her weapon.
“What the "LASER BLAST" you doing Throttle? That thing...”
“Shut it GP.” She looked at the robotic entity, “You can speak?”
“Can you understand us?”
“What are you?”
“I. I. I don’t know.” Sadness clear in the chosen words.
“What are you doing here?” She gestured around the room, “With all this?”
“I don’t know.”
Throttle stepped further into the room. SMASH! The garage doors rattled as the bodies of the undead slammed into it. The sounds of GP’s errant gunfire having rung like a dinner bell to the starving masses of flesh hungry monsters. Throttle and GP spun towards the door weapons up.
“Throttle we gotta go now.”
“Yeah.” She chanced a glance back at the sad yellow being next to her then carefully began back stepping. She trusted GP to cover their six. They had to get to the rear door, hope none of THEM were there, and then high tail it out of dodge.
“Don’t go. They are there.” They froze at the words.
“How do you know?” GP asked trigger finger itching.
“I can. See them. We are, surrounded.”
“Can it GP. We don’t know that for sure.”
“I. Am sure.” Replied the robot. The banging on the doors becoming louder. Smash! Sounds of the backdoor shattering filled the garage.
“Stay frosty GP.” A grunt his only reply.
The sounds of glass shattering and boxes toppling over ever increasing.
“We’re really fucked Throttle.”
Without taking her eyes off her site picture , “Any ideas big guy?”
Throttles jaw drops as the parts of the robot shift, changing position with mechanical clicks. In seconds where there was once a man-like robot there now sat a dust covered Volkswagen Beetle 4x4. The doors popped open, “Get in.”
“What are you waiting for. You heard it. Get in.” GP jumped in the open passenger door which slammed shut behind him. Throttle shook her head and ran for the driver’s side. The door slammed shut as soon as she sat down. The garage door began bowing under the tremendous weight of the ghouls pressing their sinewy bodies against it. At the same moment the car rocked violently as the first runner slammed into the passenger side. It’s body broken by time yet still possessed by the unquenchable urge to kill. The thin window glass the only thing stopping it from sinking it’s broken black teeth into GP’s flesh on the other side. Throttle reached for the ignition, “No keys.” Suddenly engine started with a roar. “Buckle up. This. Is about to. Get. Rocky.” The car accelerated in the small space pushing GP and Throttle back into the bucket seats. It launched itself at the garage doors easily smashing through them and the awaiting mass of undead outside. The sounds of bodies squelching and crunching under the tires like a gruesome opera. The smell of gray rotted flesh filled the cabin. “I’m gonna be sick.” GP spit out, color drained from his face. Near instantly the hum of a fan kicked in and both the sounds and smell were gone. “Holy Hell.” Throttle exclaimed, “Is there anything else you can do?” The only response being the speedometer rapidly increasing.
That was over a year ago. At first the others were apprehensive to say the least. No one knew what it was. Where it came from. What it could do. Slowly BumbleBee proved itself an invaluable ally. So much so that Throttle doesn’t go outside the wire without “The Bug.”
Until today he believed he was the only one of his kind. Now there was evidence that he wasn’t. And it was an enemy. BumbleBee sat wondering about his place in the world and what it meant that there was another like him.
Chapter 88: The Bug
30 Miles from New Springfield.
Peering through gaps in the haphazard pile of long-forgotten rust coated car skeletons, keen eyes focus on the fast-approaching convoy; HISS tank mark 1 at point, followed by a HISS mark 7, the middle made up of several transport vehicles, with three HISS mark 1 completing the group. The mission of those waiting is to, stop the supply of weapons from reaching New Springfield.
“Here they come.” The ground trembles as the heavy armored vehicles rumble down the road. “Almost. Hold. Hold. Ready...” The convoy stops suddenly. “What the...”
“What’s going on? Why’d they stop?” The man’s impatience clear in his voice.
“No idea.” Throttle scans the vehicles through a monocular. The column of dark vehicles sits, their engines angrily grumbling away. “What’re they waiting for?”
“I don’t know.” The ground in front of them explodes. “Holy shit! Fall back! Fall back!” The two freedom fighters scramble for cover as the Predator drone sweeps down and rains lead death from the sky. “No one said shit about air support. Call it in.” The two quickly fall into the open door of the brick building. The fallen sign reads, Jumping Jack’s Hardware. “Call it in!”
“I am!” GP hits his radio, “We’ve been made! We need backup!” The broken glass littering the ground inside the store rattles as the drone flies by unleashing a barrage of bullets. Pockmarks explode from the crusted tile as bullets tear into it. “Damn it! We need help now before this thing turns back around.” They hastily make their way for the rear exit. Throttle and GP had carefully picked this location for their assault as soon as the Intel came in. It allowed for quick egress should things go sideways, like they are now.
The radio crackles to life, “Hold your horses. The cavalry is coming.” The voice snaps and pops.
“Hurry!” Throttle shouts towards the mic on her shoulder. They make it to the back door just as a missile slams into the front of the building tearing it asunder. “Holy shit!”
“Keep going!” Throttle yells as the drone screams through the sky overhead. They cross the alley and launch themselves through the open door they had left ajar for just this reason. “We’ve gotta make it two more blocks.”
The front of the building erupts in an explosion. They drop to the ground. “What the fuck!” The Predator flies by, they know it will return as soon as the remote operator gets it back on their course.
Ears ringing, smoke filling the air, the taste of explosives in his mouth GP shakes Throttle by the shoulders, “What are we gonna do?”
Throttle shakes her head and points. They quickly cross the back room and open the door. They find themselves looking out into open air where once a storefront stood. Ears throbbing, Throttle motions towards the sky, “We’ve gotta move, that thing is coming back.” They make their way across the rubble and run across the street. Throttle looks back over her shoulder, “Let’s go!”
GP’s radio snaps, “What’s your location?” Through exasperated breaths, GP replies, “Second. Approaching third.”
“Copy that. I’ve got the drone on my radar. I’ll be clearing the air.” They look up just in time to see a blur of yellow leap from the roof of the building they’re running towards, over their heads, to land somewhere on the roof across the street. It quickly pops up and into the fast-approaching drone’s flight path. The blur intercepts the drone mid-air. As they crash into one another a mechanical grinding can be heard.
“No fucking way!” GP’s mouth hangs open as the two metal beings slam into the roof.
“We don’t have time. We gotta go now!” Throttle turns as the building gives way sending brick, dust, and debris into the air.
Throttle and GP cross the alley to the next building they hear the cannons of the HISS tanks fire. “He’s got this. Let’s move.” They turn and run. They make it through the last building leading to a garage, the door rolled up, skid marks heading out the door, all but empty except for two dirt bikes. They each grab one, quickly put on helmets, and check the internal mics, “Let’s go GP. We gotta clear the area before they find us again.”
They start on the first try. Throttle smiles. She silently reminds herself to thank Greaser when they get back to base. They launch out of the garage, tires throwing gravel into the air. Throttle and GP push the engines to their limits as the block they escaped is rocked by repeated explosions. As the road screams under their tires Throttle sees a cloud of dust coming up behind them. The yellow car easily catches them pacing the escaping duo. Throttle looks over, “I knew you could do it Bug.”
The synthetic voice made up of old radio clips replies, “How many times do I have to tell you, my name is BumbleBee.”
Throttle nods. “You got it Bug.”
The wall of monitors is the only light in the War Room. They cast an eerie glow on the TeleVipers intensely scrutinizing the scenes playing out on the screens. Standing behind the blue-clad tech soldiers, hands clasped behind his back, Cobra Commander watches the progress of the convoy. “Commander the mission was a success.”
“Good. We have the footage?”
“I want it ready to air tonight. The lead-in will be ‘Terrorists attack refugee convoy’ I want the world to see the lengths G.I.Joe will go to destroy the safety of our citizens.”
“The helicopter is an hour out.”
The Commander looks up from the stack of documents on his desk. His hood hides any hint of expression from the Crimson Guard standing before him. “Good. I’ll be leaving to get ready momentarily.” The Guardsman snaps a salute and turns to leave. “Siege.” He turns sharply on his heel. His mask hiding the uncertainty on his face. “Double my escort. Also, make sure all available personnel are assembled on the grand lawn.”
“It shall be done Commander.” The tension eases out of his body.
“We want to make good impression for our news guests.”
“Most certainly Commander.” Another salute and the crimson clad soldier hurriedly exits. As the door clicks shut the Commander stands and turns towards the reinforced bullet resistant floor to ceiling window overlooking his new domain. New Springfield has risen from the ashes of the apocalypse as a beacon of hope. He takes it all in. It is the closest thing to the metropolis of old. A bustling city with electricity, running water, thriving markets, even an entertainment district. While outside the walls, beyond the one mile clearing separating this new world from the old, the undead rule.
He then turns to the large map on the wall. Once it would have been a map of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now, it’s something else. It marks the boundaries of the new territories. Those in red, under his control, grow daily. The map is red from just north of New Springfield down into Central America and northern South America. His domain expands to the east right up until the irradiated Wastelands. Beyond the Wastelands lie the Badlands under the control of the United Tribes. He looks carefully at the territory. “They will need to be dealt with eventually.” He says to the empty room. Beyond that, running to the Atlantic is No Man’s Land. A place where rival warlords carve up territory faster then they can claim it. The red stops at the Rockies to the west. That is about to change.
He steps away from the window. It’s time to get ready. With the new arrivals landing his position as leader of this new world is one step closer to absolute.
An hour later he stands at the edge fo a landing zone flanked on either side by a large contingent of Crimson Guard. The Commander and Sieges seem unaffected by the downwash. As the rotors begin to slow the side door opens. Several Vipers jump off followed by a group of old men in suits. The first heads towards the Commander the others herd the men to the side of the landing pad away from the still spinning propellors. Two more Vipers drag a man, clearly unconscious, from the aircraft. The first Viper off, an Officer stops in front of Cobra Commander, “Package delivered Commander.”
“Good good. Well done.” The Commander nods his head in the direction of the unconscious man as a MediViper runs up to check him. “It seems you had a bit of a problem.”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle Commander. Just an old Joe that didn’t like seeing us.”
“You brought back another Joe. Do you know which one?”
“Dialtone. A communications expert.”
“Very good Major Onesi. If you will have those men brought over.”
“Right away Commander.” He turns to head back to his men.
“See to it that you and your men get the next 5 days off.”
“Yes Commander.” Major Onesi double times back to the rest of the Vipers’ Nest group. The suited men are escorted to Cobra Commander. The five guests walk briskly towards the masked man. A look of awe on each of their faces.
Under his mask a smile spreads across the Commander’s face, he spreads his arms in front of him. “Welcome to New Springfield, Mr. President.”
In its previous life, it had been a relatively sleepy community made up of anglers and loggers. Most residents said it was a good place to raise a family. Then THEY came.
The once quiet community became a hive of activity. It was the final fallback point for the remaining government for the former United States of America. Their final stop before being pushed back into the ocean to head to Alaska and having to give up the mainland.
For years, they survived. The President moved there from Salem, Oregon and it became the de facto capital. Several miles south of the city, they built a ten-mile wall to protect it from the undead. The first wall was made of materials left from the surrounding areas logging industry, along with various cargo containers, fencing, and anything else that could potentially slow down the zombies. They erected several other walls separating farmland from where the survivors lived. The wall that enclosed the 20-block city center was heavily reinforced concrete. If a final stand were necessary this is where it would happen. If the horde or even worse, Cobra, made it this, far it would be all hands with rifles. In the event of an evacuation, staged nearby were both sea faring vessels and various light aircraft. The population of Warrenton had been just over 5,000 pre-apocalypse. With the surrounding areas, it was just over 37,000. After the fall, the population was scarcely 1,000. Most of those were scared civilians. The rest were a mix of politicians and military forces. They held back the undead. Kept Cobra from killing the last remnants of the US government. Moreover, they had carved a life for themselves in a world hell-bent on destroying them.
Then it happened...
The tall reinforced concrete barrier begins to undulate under the sheer force of the assaulting horde pressing against it.
"Fall back! Go! Go! Go!"
People run. The barely trained civilians fall over themselves trying to escape. The highly experienced military personnel move with their head on a swivel, on the lookout for the first sign of a breech.
"Evac status?!" The question shouted into the radio clipped at his shoulder.
Static. Then, "Level Four clear. Level Three clear. Level Two clear..." Static.
"Level One evac status?!"
"Level One full loss." The voice different. Gravelly. Not Dialtone's. The Vice President.
"Repeat last transmission." Disbelief in his voice.
"Level all Level One. That's an Order!" The President shouts. The communication came on an open channel. Everyone within earshot of a radio heard it. Not once but twice. The civilians were to ???be left behind.??? Left as a distraction to allow the upper Levels time to escape. Left to the snapping maws of the undead. Left to die or worse yet, turn. Panic spreads like a forest fire. Beachhead stops in his tracks turning towards the wall just as the first section begins to collapse. He sees it in slow motion. It reminds him of footage from the fall of the Berlin Wall. The entire section slams into the ground. A giant cloud of dust kicks up into the air. Before his eyes THEY come. Flowing through the hole they made like water bursting a dam. Arms outstretched. Mouths agape. Searching for a meal. Instinctually he raises his rifle and squeezes the trigger. The first round finds its target; a head explodes in a cloud of pink mist. The next miss their marks. They still punch through the corpses of the undead knocking them off their feet, but they all slowly make their way back up. As he takes aim, he sees another rifle in his periphery. Then another. 13 rifles spit lead death at the growing mass of zombies. Magazines empty. Drop. Fresh magazines slapped in. Bodies fall. Some truly dead. Others merely slowed. The horde grows ever closer. Closing the distance between themselves and their next meal. The men know their fate. Their rifles begin to run empty. Sidearms are drawn. Smoke and the smell of ammunition fills the air, thick enough to cover the smell of rotting flesh. Pistols fire dry. Knives, hatches, even several swords find their ways into hands. Then into skulls.
The Final 13 never speak. They focus on the task. Hoping their presence affords the citizens left behind a few precious moments to make an escape.
Joes till the end.
MSG Big Brawler
SFC Cross Country
SGT Short Fuse
SGT Fast Draw
Tarzan’s estate - east of Lake Victoria British east Africa - (Kenya)
Times have changed as has the Lord Greystoke. He has watched as his beloved Africa fell into the hands of one warlord or another. As UN forces were helpless to aide the sick and hungry. From one conflict to the next he was on the frontlines defending his home and his extended family, his legend never waning. Once considered a Big Bwana, a Chief, and to some a King. He has shed all titles, except those given by his noble British birthright. He no longer sees himself as superior to the people of Africa, he knows himself to be a guest in their land. Some argue that his upbringing in the jungles by the Mangani make him more then deserving of the title of African, but as the world evolved so too did Tarzan’s view of himself and those around him.
It has been 81 years since he last undertook this trek. Then, as now, he was leading the brave Waziri. Only this time it is not in the hopes of rescuing or revenging Muviro's daughter, he buried Muviro and his daughter Buira many decades earlier. Today the Waziri led by Duma, a brave man of noble heart and stalwart courage trek for other reasons. Nor will he be forced to find his beloved Jane, for she is with him. As is the scared little Manu Nikima. The long line of Waziri march on in silence. They carry their traditional weapons of bows, arrows, spears, and shields. However times have added to their armory the British Army Bullpup SA80. However these they use only in the most dire of circumstances, there is a new danger in the jungles. One that will undoubtably be drawn in by the sounds of machine-gun fire, foul-smelling soulless corpses.
He is no stranger to the dangers of Africa from the sweltering jungle to parched savanna, the mighty Bolgani to the brave Sabor he has faced them all. And won. Death instills no fear in his heart so long as it is an honorable death. However, in the world now death comes at the cavernous gullet on the shambling undead. A death that is most certainly anything but honorable. Never has Tarzan faced such adversaries. Immune to the mighty hold of the Lord of the jungle. Unafraid of the many wild denizens. Even the savage Sabor turns and runs when the scent spoor of the undead is in the air.
At the insistence of his beloved Jane he had reluctantly watched the reports coming from around the world. At first confined to the shores of the United States it quickly spread until it was on their doorstep deep in the heart of Kenya. The first one had been a member of a tribe from Tanzania it had made its way over 300 miles. It's body was torn and battered. Any garments that had once covered it body had fallen victim to the thorns and brambles of the dark jungle. Lord Greystoke was on the veranda speaking to Duma about precautions that should be taken with regards to the growing threat. The screams shattered the still African air. Immediately the brave Waziri warriors ran led by Greystoke only to come upon a scene of pure horror. The thing had its head buried in the soft belly of a small child, a woman wailed in pain as blood flowed from her chest. A man laid prone on the ground unmoving in a puddle of his precious life blood. In a red fit of rage Tarzan lashed out at the creature, grabbing a handful of its hair and pulling, he didn’t expect the head to tear clean off, yet, even severed from the body the mouth snapped at the air. It wasn’t until Tarzan sank the blade of his father’s knife hilt deep into the skull that it finally met true death. Then those attack arose, possessed by the primal urge to feed.
They had lost good warriors and many innocents that day.
They had fought bravely.
Nothing had prepared them for what they faced.
That was the day he came to fully understand how contagious the plague was. Even the smallest scratch or bite led to infection and un-death.
The treacherous trek to the Kavuru village they are undertaking, is due solely to the fact that Tarzan’s supply of perpetual youth pellets is all but gone. Tarzan , Jane, and Nikima each have one pellet remaining. It must be taken on the night of the upcoming full moon. Should they fail to secure any more, their youth will surely slip away. When last they escaped the Kavuru village it was burning to the ground and and the madman Kavandavanda was dead, a bullet from Tarzan’s pistol having pierced his heart. For nearly 6 decades the abductions of young women had all but stopped. In that time any that went missing were attributed to Sheeta or Sabor. Then the disappearances began anew. Tarzan thought not of Kavandavanda and the Kavuru but of human traffickers. Traffickers had become a plague, they beset his beloved Africa with their sites set on the young. Tarzan worked tirelessly to ensure that those of his adopted homeland knew of what to look out for from the men that stole women to sell into slavery. Now, his future depends on his memories of the heavily protected city and its inhabitants. Surely Kavandavanda could not have been the only one to know the secret. Perhaps unknown notes were found by the surviving Kavuru and deciphered allowing the pellets to be made anew. He knew from what they were made, “the pollen of certain plants, the roots of others, the spinal fluid of leopards, and, principally, the glands and blood of women - young women.” He knew his life was extended by the deaths of untold innocents, and yet he valued his life and that of Jane above all else. Both he and Jane know their longevity is at stake, their legend.
In the past they would have order Duma and the Waziri into the jungle to engage in the safari so that they could secure the vital pellets. However, this is not the past. Tarzan and Jane sat down with Duma and the counsel and laid out exactly what was at stake, “We do not know what exactly would happen should we run out of pellets. We may grow old slowly or we may lose our youth all at once. But whatever the case, our time will run out.”
“Tarzan, you have lived a long life. To ask us to risk our mortal lives so that you may seek continued immortality is, unconscionable.” Duma said a hint of anger in his voice.
“You are correct. It is a purely selfish request.” Responds Tarzan. “And yet I am asking.”
“You aren’t even certain that these pellets exist. You would want us to leave our village, our families, at a time when the world is overrun with walking corpses.” The anger in Duma’s voice now clear.
Tarzan hangs his head, “I am sorry for insulting you with this request.”
It was several weeks before the horde arrived. They swarmed the village like the Saifu Ant, engorging themselves on any living thing and anyone that their jaws latched on to. Tarzan, Jane, and Duma rallied the Waziri and fought valiantly to protect and defend their families yet they were forced to flee into the darkness of the thick verdant jungle. For several days the survivors of the massacre traveled heads hung low. Tarzan scouted ahead raising his nose to the sky, as Usha brought the scent spoor of wilderness to his flaring nostrils.
Tarzan made his was back to the group, now refugees in their own land, “It is clear ahead. The undead haven’t made it here, yet. We should be safe for a night at least.”
The group stopped and immediately set to the tasks of making a camp. Bomas were erected not to stop Numa or Sabor but to slow down the ravenous zombies. The work is done as quickly and quietly as such work can be done. After gathering the wild edibles of the area and a small Bara they set about eating. Tarzan and Jane sat away from the others. Duma approached, “Tarzan.”
“About what we were talking about before, going to the village, for your pills.” He turned and looked at the gathering of Waziri warriors and families. “We’ll go.”
Around a small fire sit a group of men and women. Made up of scouts of the Unified Nations they listen with rapt attention to one who is a leader among them. Beyond them with clear senses and solid nerves, searching the darkness stand the guards, warriors of the highest caliber, taught from birth to be proud of their heritage, trained from the onset of the end to be stalwart, brave, fearless. Conditioned to look a demon in the eye and destroy it. Efficient quiet killers. From all corners of the great nation, the former United States, they came with their tribes to the Badlands in hopes of finding means to save their people. Under the guidance of one of their own, a man known among all, a man trained by the United States in the art of war, they united. They fought the white man to a standstill. However, many lives were lost to THEM.
Civil War. That's what some called it. Others terrorism. It all depends on their perspective. We call it Freedom. We fought for months, the government refusing to back down. I can't blame them really. We were declaring that the land they were on was ours as we were its first inhabitants. They claimed it theirs by virtue of being the government. Turns out we were both wrong. It was THEIRS. THEY overtook both sides. While we were busy fighting one another THEY came in and nearly eradicated us. It happened in ones and twos at first, a private on their side, a young warrior on ours. Then the tides turned in THEIR favor. There started to be more of THEIR spawn in the Army field hospital and in our infirmary then there were people to look after and care for them. It didn't matter whether it was a single tooth breaking the skin or an all out mauling the effect was always the same. Death then reanimation. The only x factor was the time it took. A small bite could take hours, in several cases days, a severe wound near instantaneous.
The Elders claimed it was the vengeful spirits of the dead coming back to punish those who abused the land. Even Spirit scoffed at that. After listening to the Elders who claimed to have spoken with the ancestors of the many tribes he said, 'I have experienced many events during my time; birth, death, love, hate. But this is the first time I have felt fear. Pure fear. These things are evil. They are no spirits. They are spiritless. They have no being within. They are hollow shells with no purpose other than death.' The tribal elders couldn't believe the words of Spirit. Eventually they had no choice but to listen.
Now we are no longer "Native Americans" as there is no longer an America We are one.
Our tribal identities were the hardest to let go. Seminoles, Apache, Iroquois, Sioux, Crow, all the Nations together. All believing their customs, traditions, and identities the greatest. Many nights Spirit and I spent hearing and settling personal disputes between groups of young warriors full of stubborn pride. We can no longer afford individual identities. In time we taught them that if we are to survive we must be as one.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of our Freedom we find ourselves still at war. Yet we continue. We thrive. Our enemy has changed. The federal agents and National Guard are still here. Only now they are the walking dead. They have become more dangerous. Once the death from their weapons were permanent. Now they add to their ranks.
Journal of Norville Shaggy Roberts.
I decided to write down my thoughts after it was born. After it emerged.
It's been six months since it was born. Six long months. After delivering the thing Hatch and Emily disappeared in the middle of the night. I assume to escape the...
That's what it is in the truest sense of the word. It's abominable. It is worth of and causes disgust and hatred.
It's also a fast growing and developing beast. It's not human that much I know. In six months it's grown faster than any living thing should. It began talking within 2 weeks of being born, walking in 3. It now stands almost as tall as Velma.
Even with all that is happening in the world; zombies, evil cults, damn marauders, this thing is unbelievable. At first Scooby and I kept our distance. Now Scoobs seems unfazed by it. He will even play with the thing. Scooby chases a ball for the thing like he did when he was a pup. The only thing that keeps me around is Velma, although I don't think she really needs me.
Emil, that's what Velma named it, Emil Dinkley. It calls her "mommy." It tried calling me "daddy" I couldn't handle that. I lost it. Screamed. A lot. Now if it needs my attention it calls me Shaggy. It's weird. It almost looks like its feelings are hurt when it calls me by my name.
It's playing fetch with Scooby as I write this. Scoobs doesn't know any better I guess. He just likes to play.
The thing has an uncanny ability to know when those things are around. And those things avoid it like the plague.
It also hunts, it brought back deer, a turkey, a couple goats. Somehow it even caught a couple chickens. We keep them on the roof of the Mystery Machine and every so often we get a couple eggs. I guess the thing is helping keep us alive.
I still hate it.
"Hey Shaggy what are you doing?" He looks up from his scrawl filled notebook and sees the inquisitive eyes of Velma. "I'm just like, writing down some stuff."
"What kind of stuff?" Suspicion in her voice.
"Just, y-you know, stuff. Nothing important."
"Can I see?" He quickly closes the cover. "No. I-it's like private stuff. My inner most thoughts. Yeah that's it."
"Uh huh." Her voice doing little to hide her doubt, "Maybe you and I can join Scooby and Emil in a game of catch?"
"Y-you go play. I think I'll like stay here and keep watch. Don't wanna be snuck up on by some hungry undead." Velma closes the distance between them, leans down to look Shaggy in the eyes, and places her hands over his, "Shaggy I know you've been... Uncomfortable with Emil. But you don't have to lie. We haven't seen any of those things in weeks. And when we do they scurry away as fast as they can."
"That doesn't scare you does it?"
"Why would it? We're safe."
"B-because they're scared of that thing."
She cuts him off anger seeping into her voice, "That 'thing' is your son. That 'thing' is keeping you and your dog fed. That 'thing deserves some respect."
"Momma?" The plaintive voice startles them both. "Why you mad at da... Shaggy?" His eyes show concern.
"I'm not mad at Shaggy. We're just talking. Everything is okay." Her face is all smiles for the thing standing in front of her.
"Commander, the information you requested has arrived." The uniformed trooper places a folder on the well worn oaken desk, snaps a salute, then quickly leaves.
Cobra Commander sits back in his chair, elbows on the leather armrests, fingers steepled. He peers at the manila folder steeling himself to look inside.
For 8 years the war has raged on. Man vs undead. Cobra vs the remnants of the US government. So far he has been winning on both fronts. In fact he's been using the undead in his battle against the new G.I.Joe team. The strategy has been simple, get a horde to follow a team to Salem, Oregon the capitol of the New States of America, point the mass of flesh eating monsters at the walls, and make the fledgling government use their precious resources to stop the creatures from feasting on those inside. It worked surprisingly well. Until it didn't. All went as usual, the team of troopers had rounded up a horde made up of several thousand walking corpses. They had already chosen the attack point as well as the area where they would splinter off leaving the swelling mass to attack. When they arrived at the location where they'd double back, a team of heavily armed Joes were waiting. They suffered heavy casualties, the first to the Joes in well over a year.
There was no way the Joe team could have guessed where the next attack would be. Which meant there was a mole. Cobra had recruited a number of former Joe operators as well as operatives and agents from numerous US Federal Agencies but none were on the mission or a part of the planning process. Cobra Commander spared no resources to find the information in the file in front of him. Now he hesitated to open it. Leaning forward he pressed the intercom button. His assistant answers, "Yes Commander"
"Get me Generals Tomax and Xamot. Immediately. When they arrive make sure I am not interupted under any circumstances."
"Yes Commander." Cobra Commander sits back fingers steepled, waiting.
It takes only a matter of minutes for a knock at the door to draw his attention away from the dossier. He calls out, "Enter." The door opens slowly. Generals Tomax and Xamot are no strangers to the office of the Commander having assisted in every aspect of the creation of New Springfield and the continuing attacks on Salem. They were however unnerved at the unannounced meeting. They step in coming to a stop and saluting. "You called for us Commander." Tomax says.
"Yes. I did."
They remain standing as no seat is offered. "What can be so important as to take us away from..."
"Are you questioning me Xamot!??? The words are growled not as a question but a warning.
"No Commander." Xamot stands rigid like a rabbit seeing the snake and hoping it doesn't see him. His brother freezes next to him.
"Gentlemen." Not Generals. The two instinctually know this will not turn out well. "As you know the last mission to Salem was an abject failure."
Tomax interjects, "Sir we know things didn't go as planned..."
"SILENCE!" The word reverberates through the office. He looks from one to the other his gleaming mask showing nothing of his face. It simply mirrors the reflections of two very still and very uneasy Cobra Generals. "Inside this folder is the reason why." He slides it across the desk. "I went to great lengths to get this information."
"I said silence. I will not repeat myself again." The threat is not only implied but punctuated by the placement of a shining silver revolver on the desk. "I have yet to open the folder but have been told what it contains." He looks at each man again, beads of sweat beginning to form on their brows. "I'm going to ask you to open it and to deal with it." He then goes silent relaxing into his chair in the familiar pose with steepled fingers. "Open it." He doesn't direct the order to either man in particular.
Tomax reaches out, "Brother don't" Xamot's hand grasps his brothers wrist catching Tomax of guard. "Why not brother?" "No good will come of it. This is clearly a test by the Commander. A test of our loyalty to Cobra." Tomax looks at his brother's pleading eyes. "Don't." Is all Xamot says.
"Brother I don't know what you think this may contain but we have been ordered by our Commander. I shall not ignore that order." He twists his wrist away. A tear runs down his brother's cheek. He turns to look as he flips the cover open. Inside are photos. Photos that cannot exist. Photos of him handing information to a Joe operator. His vision swirls. The world around him seems to come crashing down. A cacophony of sound erupts in his head. "What... How?" He stammers looking at the Commander seeing only the reflection of his own palpable fear. The Commander turns his head toward Xamot. Tomax sees something in the reflection he can't quite comprehend. He turns towards his brother not realizing that he had retrieved the pistol from the Commander's desk and now had it leveled at his head. "B-b-Brother." Xamot cocks the single action weapon. "I'm sorry brother."
"NO..." The earsplitting sound of the .357 cuts off the word as Tomax's head splits open like an overripe melon. Behind his mask the Commander smiles. Xamot turns towards the man. "I'm sorry Commander." In one smooth motion the gun is under Xamot's chin, the trigger squeezed, and the lifeless body falls to the ground with a wet thud. The Commander's smile grows. He presses the intercom, "Get me a clean up crew."
"Right away sir."
December 24th, 2016, 11:49pm
"Go! Go! Go!" Thomas swings the broken shotgun connecting with the skull of the nearest rotting corpse reaching out to grab him. The blow knocks the ghoul back but it staggers forward. Thomas takes the opportunity to get through the open door slamming it shut behind him. "Grab that bookcase get it over here." Two of the adults inside drag it in front of the door. "We gotta cover these windows. Find anything you can. Put more in front of the door." The three adults grab everything not nailed down and pile it in front of the door and windows. "I'll see if there is another way out of here." Thomas goes off into a side room. He comes back a moment later the look on his face tells the adults all they need to know. A little boy, 7 years old reaches for his hand, "Daddy?" The one word says everything. The questioning pleading frightened tone speaks volumes. Thomas reaches down pulling his son into his arms, "It'll be okay Adam. I promise." He knows he's lying. He knows it's only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down and the ravenous maws of the undead feast on their flesh. He also knows he won't let his little ones be their victims. He walks over to the other children. His children. The three stand close together tears streaming from their eyes.
He stoops down. They run to him. He holds all four close. His daughter Jenny. Little Mikey and Michelle. Twins he found hiding under a bed in a house early on. Michelle pointed a pistol at him. She squeezed the trigger. The hammer clicked empty. They were 4 at the time. He wasn't technically their father but they became his kids as he devoted his whole being to protecting them. They, along with his 2 little ones were his whole world. Thankfully he found help along the way; Abner the big biker tattoos up and down his arms, Lisa the teenage girl who held her own better then most, and Sindy the grandmother. Now here they were.
We huddled in the corner resigned to our fate. For years we struggled and fought to survive but on this night our time had come. Our ammunition was long gone. Our firearms nothing more then piles of bent and twisted steel and plastic. When the last round was fired we had resorted to using our rifles and pistols as bludgeons. You ever hit someone with a gun? You used to see it in the movies a lot. A quick crack to the head and down went the bad guy. Turns out it's not so easy. The skull is designed to protect the brain. You have to bash over and over again to destroy the gray matter. It takes a toll on your weapon. Eventually they break.
We fought the undead off long enough to make it into a building. Somehow we got the door closed and barricaded then worked on the covering the windows. It was haphazard and we all knew it wouldn't hold. That we were just delaying the inevitable but the kids were worth it. "Let's move to a different room." Thomas led the group to a second floor bedroom. The sounds were quieter now but ever relentless. The other three adults grabbed what they could and tossed it on the stairs. Anything to slow down what would soon be happening.
"Hey it's Christmas Eve." Thomas said looking at the kids as Sindy, Abner, and Lisa walked in. Even with the banging of the undead the mention of Christmas got the little ones' attention.
"Let's see what we have here." Sindy said reaching into her backpack. The children watched wiping tears from their eyes. She pulled 4 small packages wrapped in old newspaper tied with bits of string. She handed one to each child. "Go ahead. Open them. I don't think Santa will mind." They did excitedly. For weeks the adults had searched for a few items that might comfort the kids and make Christmas more bearable. A doll. A small dump truck. An old action figure. A stuffed bear. They found them and did their best to clean them up. Each child lit up seeing their new toy. They didn't care about the scratches chipped paint or small tears. They were just kids being kids.
The adults watched tears in their eyes. "Thomas?" Lisa's voice was a tense whisper. Thomas looked at her. "I know." Quietly they all pulled small knives out placing them on the bed. "Not yet. Let them play." They watched the kids each lovingly playing like there was no such thing as monsters. The sound of shattering glass drew the adults attention but not the kids. Sindy' hand slid toward her blade. Thomas put his hand on hers. "Not yet." Tears rolled down his cheeks. They had talked about this eventuality and knew what had to be done. The zombies would not kill the children. "Please. Not yet. Please." She pulled her hand away nodding.
"Look Daddy. It's snowing." Little Adam held his dump truck and pointed out the window. "Do you think Santa's still out there?" Thomas went to the boy, he knew he didn't believe in Santana anymore and was just asking for the littler kids. "I bet he is." Michelle put her hand in his "Do you think he's scared of the monsters?" She looks at him eyes big and full of wonder. "I don't think so. He can fly in his sleigh."
"I wish I could fly." Mikey said finding a place to sit in Thomas' lap. "Me too buddy." Jenny crawled on too. He kissed the tops of each of their heads holding them as close as he could.
Without warning there was a noise on the roof. A clatter. The sound of bells. "What the..." Abner looks up.
"It almost sounds like... hooves." Lisa says following the sounds above her.
Thud. Thud. Thud. "That sounds like footsteps." Sindy whispers. Thump. The sound reverberates in the room. Thump. Thump. Thump. The footsteps go back across the roof. The hoofbeats start again followed by a quick dragging sound. Then it's gone. As they all stare at the ceiling above them they hear it echoing in the distance. "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
"I'm going to check it out." Abner finds his way to the roof. When he gets there he is in disbelief and shock. A large red bag sits in the middle of the flat rooftop overflowing from it he sees the muzzles of rifles and shotguns. Rushing over he looks inside; body armor covered in magazine pouches stuffed with fully loaded magazines. Shotguns of various sizes and styles fully loaded. Rifles locked and loaded. Chainsaws fueled and ready to go. An arsenal worthy of an army dropped on the roof. It takes several trips to get it all back inside. Each adult putting on body armor and grabbing weapons. "It's a Christmas miracle." Thomas whispers. "Let's put these undead down for good."