Date: March 24, 2014 Time: 1932 Location: Craig Nebraska
"Nothing. Not a damn thing Sheriff." Replies the young man from atop the rough hewn wall of logs, the only barrier between the small town of Craig, NE and the waste land surrounding it. Once the land had been rich and fertile. Some of the best farming in the country. Now the landscape is littered with the wreckage of the past. The skeletons of cars long abandoned and stripped of anything useful, sit in apparent disarray while the blackened fuselage of a crashed airliner mars the horizon. The young man looks out over the scene eyes carefully scanning the area for signs of movement. They didn't build the walls to keep the walking dead out. This small settlement hasn't worried about THEM in months. No they built the wall to keep the marauders out.
When the dead starting walking most of THEM stayed near Lincoln. It's high population giving this community a small reprieve from the worst of the downfall. However, they weren't immune from the shambling corpses, when ever a group of the ghouls was spotted the sheriff and townspeople worked together to ensure the swift elimination of the threats. The sheriff organized patrols through the town, deputizing any man who could shoot straight, which in this small burg was every male able to hold a rifle. The men and women of this town were cut from a different cloth than most people. More rugged, durable, self-sufficient, with a strong sense of community. They were used to caring for their own gardens and hunting from the surrounding countryside. They pickled and preserved, smoked and cured whatever couldn't be eaten in the here and now. Every home had at least one rifle, most had multiples along with shotguns and pistols. All had enough ammunition to make the ATF look a little closer at the invoices of the local gun shop. Multiple wells provided water for the town, this came about after the the people voted to stop getting their water from a government controlled reservoir after the State Legislature voted to raise taxes on the communities that received the water. The people had food, water, protection, manpower, a strong leader in the sheriff, and a sense of loyalty to each other. If there ever was a town ready to survive the zombie menace it was Craig. However, the one thing they weren't prepared for wasn't the shambling rotting undead but uncivilized and morally devoid men. As a community they could accept the dead rising as they could see it. They could justify shooting decomposing creatures as they knew they were cursed. Thus, in their eyes, no sin would be committed. But living men raping, pillaging, and killing like some sort of twisted barbarian horde, no not barbarians, pirates just for the sake of doing it. That they could neither understand nor accept.
Under the waving Jolly Roger they descended upon the town, motorcycles roaring, guns blazing, chainsaws screaming. They came with bats wrapped with barb wire or filled with bent and rusting nails, blood encrusted lead pipes, and razor sharp machetes, smashing shop windows and looting what they wanted. Along the way grabbing any women that came within reach. As the thunder of their engines rumbled off into the distance the townspeople counted their loses. Untold property damage, 14 dead, 21 wounded, 6 women missing. With a population less than 300 any loss was felt deeply. The pirates were almost their undoing. If it hadn't been for the sheriff. He brought the people together, he wasted no time in preparing for another attack, in fortifying the town center. "The dead can be cried over tomorrow. Today we work for the living." He said. Rallying the people, pushing out his chest like he'd seen sheriffs in movies do for years. He didn't get the expected applause and immediate response. It started with just him and a single deputy. When the sheriff asked him why he was helping when no one else was he simply replied, "They took ma and killed pa. I want to go after them but I know I'd only end up dead. They'll be back. When they do I wanna be ready." In silence they worked, pushing cars to block the roads into and out of town. Filling and stacking improvised sand bags. Throwing the broken glass of the shops across the outer roadways. Anything to make it harder for the gang to come back. It was hard work and it took the two of them the better part of a week to block each road and enough of the shoulders of each to ensure the pirates would have a hell of a time getting back into their town. It was day six before anyone else showed up. After that a few more each day until by the end of week two most everyone who could, was working. Trees were cut, holes dug, logs lowered and secured, a palisade harking back to the time of lords and castles being erected around the town. Where they could they substituted box trucks, tires flattened and turned on their sides. There was no shortage of hunting perches which were secured to posts or trees on the inside of the fence, allowing for those on guard duty to peer over the sharpened stakes into the distance. A fire line was created after the crashing of the airliner and subsequent explosion burned the brush and waste, taking out a small block of homes with it. For 200 yards out every tree, bush, and briar was removed. The cars outside the wall were stripped for any parts and left as distance markers for the sharpshooters who were to be on duty around the clock. For two months the people were busy day and night. The people worked in shifts to ensure the protection of the town. People from outside the wall moved in with family, friends, or the homes of the dead within the perceived safety of the new barricade.
The downfall was his ascent into power. For too long Zanzibar was a low lieutenant among the 'Noks. While civilization was burning and the dead consumed the living he took over this section of what has become wasteland. What brought him to this landlocked land of plenty and away from his beloved Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, only he knows, but come he did. He was staying at a local Chapter Clubhouse when it started. He heard the explosion long before he heard the screams of the living. The clubhouse was located on the wrong side of the tracks in the industrial wasteland of Freemont, NE, northwest of Omaha. Surrounded by dilapidated houses and partially abandoned warehouses no one bothered the beer swilling, bad mouthed, drug dealing, quick to violence gang of humanities finest trash. So Zanzibar was shocked to see people running through the streets early that morning. Even more shocked as he witnessed the attacks. A man covered in blood tackled a leggy blonde, as he fell atop her his teeth dug wickedly into her throat. Blood spurt into the air as he viciously mauled her, taking huge hunks of flesh from her neck and shoulders swallowing each gruesome piece whole. Zanzibar slammed the front door closed and shook the nearest 'Noks who had passed out after a night of overindulging drugs, alcohol, and pleasures of the flesh.
"Damn it secure that door!" He shouted pointing at the side door which opened into the grungy alley.
"Fuck you." Came as the response from the hung over miscreant. Who the hell did this asshole think he was? Coming in here hair up in some bitch ass pony tail, wearing an eye patch, and clothing that looked like he belonged on the damn Black Pearl. No sissy ass pirate wannabe was going to tell him what to do.
"Fuck me?" Zanzibar knew from experience that loyalty and order were of first and foremost importance within the organization. He was to be looked at like a foreign dignitary visiting the damn White House. His word as a Dreadnok Lieutenant obeyed by all lower members unless it directly countered the Chapter Leaders orders. So with swift movements learned wrestling Copperhead and alligators in the thick of the swamp Zanzibar was upon the man.
Fire shot through the drunken biker's body as he felt the impact of Zanzibar's callused knuckles. He bent over in pain as Zanzibar went and threw the bolt to the door. On his way back, "You listen here ya scurvy dog, when I tell you to do somthin' ya better bloody well do it. That goes for all of you." Turning to look over the hungover and in some cases still drunk group. The screams from the street had been growing louder for the last few minutes. Combined with the groans of the bleeding 1%er the 'Noks looked around with apprehension.
"What the hell is going on out there?" Asked a large biker head and face shaved smooth, tattoos running from his thick bull neck down his arms.
"Let's find out. You and you come with me to the roof. The rest of you bastard sons, gather your weapons and make sure to keep those damn doors closed." Zanzibar along with the large, bald, tattooed biker and the bleeding 'Nok quickly climb the stairs to the roof to get a better look at the situation. The morning sun shone brightly and had already heated the flat black tarred roof into an oven. As the three stepped out of the gloomy interior of the clubhouse they could see black smoke coming from every direction. The screams of the dying mingled with the moans of the attackers. The pop pop pop staccato of gun fire echoed through the warehouse district. As the made their way closer tot he edge of the roof they could see packs of crazed people attacking screaming men and women. The attackers weren't moving fast, but rather surrounded their victims and overwhelmed them with sheer numbers.
Zanzibar watched as large warehouse worker in the stereotypical uniform of jeans and flannels ran from a house wive who was completely naked, the only thing covering her skin was a thick coating of dark blood. He saw that the big man was no match for the blood covered woman. She tore into him as he lashed out like a trapped rat. After a few bites the man fell and the woman began to feast on him. She had just succeeded in pulling his intestines out of his bloated beer gut when she seemed to lose interest. She stood up and lurched towards another person, she reached her hand out just in time to clothesline an unsuspecting suit. He fell to the ground and was smothered by people all fighting to get a taste. While this was happening the big 'Nok with the bald head pointed at the fallen warehouse worker and stammered, "What… what… whathefuckman!" Zanzibar turned to and watched in astonishment as the man sat up and began moaning. He worked his way up on shaky feet his intestines swinging from him like sick sausage marionettes. It was then that his mind put together all it had seen in the last 10 minutes. Those ten minutes felt like hours, days eve, as his brain worked to deny the electric impulses his eyes were sending, they had to be wrong, they couldn't be seeing what they were looking down upon. And yet, there it was. He mumbled a single word, "Zombies…" Trailing off as he made his way to the door back into the sanctuary of the clubhouse.
The clubhouse had been a storehouse and later a garage. It had been built with thick cinder block walls and concrete floors. The small windows were high off the ground and covered with criss-crossing bars and chicken wire. There were several videocameras on the exterior giving those inside a 360 degree view around the building, the alleyway, and small back lot, as well s cameras aimed down the street in both directions. These cameras gave the 'Noks a heads up of any attempt by the local pigs or even worse the feds to upset their business dealings or kill their buzz. The whole club had been updated with several diesel generators after s group of damn Narcs had cut power in an attempt to catch the 'Noks passed out. They had plenty of beer, and a still to make their own brand of moonshine, strong enough to strip the grease of a Panhead. Because of the ingredients it came out purple so they bottled the stuff in old grape soda bottles. They had what looked like a lifetime supply of Slim Jims, that had fallen of the back of a truck that just so happened to have had its tires blown out and driver beaten to within an inch of his life. It wasn't perfect but Zanzibar could work with it. So long as the damn bastards listened to him.
Over the course of his god forsaken life, Zanzibar had seen a zombie only once before, it happened during an excursion to Cuba. He found himself employed smuggling arms to the island from a former Soviet Bloc country. After unloading his shipment and receiving payment, he decided to take in some local sights, broads and booze. He was trying to work out a deal with a particular chuchumeca when she looked over his shoulder, paled, screamed, and ran into the night. Thinking an angry pimp was behind him he turned ready to fight. What he saw stopped him in his tracks. There, staring at him through hazy eyes was a slack jawed man. He was dressed head to toe in what looked like it could have been white at one time. Now dried blood, dirt, and who knows what else stained the garment like some crazed Rorschach Test. Around his right arm were tied a series of gris gris, charms used in Santeria rituals. Behind him stood an old grizzled woman, back hunched over a twisted cane, with a leering toothless smile. She too was dressed all in white only her clothing was pristine and accessorized by various gris gris, he recognized charms woven with chicken feathers and bones, along with human hair and in some cases bits of human bone and skin. Framing the scene like underpaid extras on a bad vampire flick were three beautiful young women. Their tight firm bodies accented by the thin film of white gauze like material trying to pass as clothing. Zanzibar took all this in in seconds. What happened next… He never spoke of, nor would he now… He never did return to Cuba.
The sight before him now was different. While the Cuban zombie had seemed docile or at least domesticated, these creatures were feral monsters. They were feeding and multiplying, each bite infecting it's victim. The more severe the bite the faster the infection. It was that days events years ago now, and the subsequent events that took place since then that placed Zanzibar in the position he was now. He still had loyalty to the Dreadnoks but out here he had no National President to answer to, no Zartan or his meddling siblings getting in the way of his entertainment. Out here he was a pirate of the plains. Taking what he wanted and leaving a trail of dead in his wake.
Zanzibar looked down over the town, he had bided his time, let them get comfortable, their guard was up but it was slipping. Already he had received reports of those on watch falling asleep or leaving their posts if even just to take a piss. He would take from them all they had. He didn't care about material possessions, nor even women and girls. He left those things to the peons he commanded. He basked in terror. Terror and fear. The look in the eyes of a man when he knows the end is coming. That is what this ol' pirate lives for.
September 2, 2014. Time: Unknown. Location: No Man's Land.
I've been on the road now for I forget how long, days blend together, as do the seasons. I came from the remains of Miami following a story. A lead. Little more than a rumor actually. I have been tagging along with a small band of out law bikers. These guys barely made it out of the Prospect stage before the shit hit the fan. They tolerate my presence, just barely. If it wasn't for the incident back in Tallahassee I don't think they'd keep me around. After what went down there… well… let's say we now have a more mutual understanding of one another.
Bound to one another by a blood oath these three Dreadnoks Hadjo, Brutus, Rascal, and the "old lady" Runway make their way West in hopes of locating their leaders, Zandar, Zarana, and most importantly Zartan. That fits my designs perfectly. I've been looking for him. I've interviewed hundreds of people over the years who, even before the shit, spoke of the man as if he were a demigod. Even now, with the dead walking the Earth people still speak his name in hushed voices while looking over their shoulders more scared of him then the beasts lying in wait to devour their flesh.
Zandar and Zarana the insane lieutenants of their older brother Zartan. None of them are actually Dreadnoks themselves but somehow they have come to command the loyalty of these hardened criminals and degenerates to a degree that even these newly initiated cretins feel absolute devotion to them. So much so that they have travelled hundreds of miles among highly infested territory steeling and pillaging anyone who got in their way. They have also sent a great many of the walking dead to their permanent grave, along with more than their share of bleeders, a term they coined to describe the still living. The walking dead as you undoubtably know don't bleed. They ooze dark puss, a coagulated brew of body fluids. Being 'Noks these men and their woman shoot first and never ask questions. So when the tell tale crimson of the living fills the air rather than the black sludge of the dead, well they commence to enjoy the spoils. It turns my stomach even thinking about it.
This brings me to my current location. Somewhere between the Badlands and Death Valley. Now known as No Man's Land. How appropriate actually. Once the bread basket of America now a dead zone. If the dead don't get you the nuclear fallout, rampant disease, unpredictable weather, roving packs of feral animals everything from dogs gone mad to escaped big cats, LAMOEs, mutants, or freaks might. Those aren't even the worst of it... At the onset of the fall there was an uprising of Sioux led by, of all people two former G.I.Joes, Spirit and Dart. They ended up succeeding in chasing off the military and forming what they've dubbed the Unified Nations. Basically it's a collective of as many remianing Native Americans that can make it the area. They work together to secure their boundries with ruthless efficency.
Along the way I've been able to gather snippets of information, I used the last of my DDDs just last week and now I'm down to bullets. DDDs really do get the best intel (note to self get more DDDs). From what I've gathered it's not only the 'Noks looking for Zartan, it's everyone. You see even facing the end of the world the rumor mill still turns. Only now it's no longer relegated to the office water cooler. Now it's anywhere the living come together. The rumors started almost immediately; government conspiracies, extra-terrestrial involvement, the Illuminati, and most recently the quest for a cure. Not a vaccine mind you, a full blown cure. At least that's what the rumors say. They also talk about who has it. About who controls it and why. The rumors point to one man knowing the truth, if it exists. I'm here traveling with the only group that might be able to find the man in question. If they can find the siblings, find Zandar and Zarana, if they can be found, then maybe we can find Zartan.
Date: August 19, 2009. Time: 0930. Location: Boise, Idaho.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated." Another day as a bailiff in a Federal Courthouse. Seems one of my boys has gotten himself in some trouble and rather than waiting for me he turned States Evidence. That just won't do. Today is the first day of his trial. He's pleading guilty to some "lesser charges" in return for immunity in his greater testimony against my family. That will never happen.
He's seated with his underpaid overworked public defender. Look how smug. Always knew letting someone god-damn self-righteous Cambridge educated ass into the 'Noks would one day come back to bite us on the ass. Well today won't be that day.
"How does the defendant plead?
"Guilty your Honor."
"Very well. You do understand that by pleading guilty you will wave your right to a trial by your peers?"
"Aye do ya Honor."
"Very well. Sentencing…"
"Sorry to interrupt your honor but the State has agreed to place the defendant into protective custody in return for his testimony against the notorious biker gang the Dreadnoks as well as the family of Zartan, Zandar, and Zarana terrorists wanted in connection with countless acts of violence against the people of the United States as well as; Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Japan, Brazil…"
"Yes yes. I am perfectly aware of who the Zartan Clan are and what they are suspected of. I have no objections to the deal set forth. Bailiff please escort Mr. Blinken to holding while he's processed for transport.
"Right away your Honor." I have no problem keeping the scorn and distaste out of my voice. To the Judge I'm just Bailiff George Makenzie. I watched him for several days from the gallery; watching how he walked, how he stood around, I mastered the look of overwhelming superiority and boredom that he always wore. Now I'm walking over to Ripper. "If you'll come with me." He hesitates.
"It's okay. We'll be down in a minute to pick you up. Just some last minute signatures and what not. You'll be okay. No one can get you in here. Isn't that right Georgie Boy?"
"No one will get ya on my watch." He gets up from his seat, his chair legs scrape along the floor, I can't wait to make him pay. We pass through the heavy side door of the courtroom. It opens into a long grey hallway that leads directly to the secure holding area of the court basement. On a lucky day he'd be taken out into the underground parking area and into a waiting armored SUV after all the paperwork was processed. Today isn't his lucky day. He keeps just a few steps behind me. He's no longer a "prisoner" per se so he's uncured. I can hear his rapid breathing. He's scared. If only he knew.
"So where we goin' eh?"
"Well sir we're going to wait in a nice cozy office down here until your handlers arrive. Shouldn't take them but 10 minutes." Plenty of time.
At the end of the hall we step through one last door. I gold it for him, "After you sir." That's when he pisses his pants. Strapped to a chair, neck slashed, is good ol' Georgie Boy. I can see the color drain from his face. He turns towards me slowly. Surely he knows what's about to happen.
"I haven't told 'em anything. I swear to ya." He's crying.
"I know Buzzer. I know. And now you never will." He tries to scream but my hand is around his throat. All that comes out is his last breath. He tries to fight me off. "Really Buzzer ol' chap this would go much easier if you just let it happen." Now he shits himself. As he struggles I tie the rope around his neck. Throw it up over the exposed pipes up near the ceiling. I checked them they'll hold, at least as long as I need them too. I pull him up off his feet, just barely, I don't want him to suffocate. I want him to suffer. I figure I have about 8 minutes left. "Buzzer ol' boy. Do you know what you almost did? Do you realize the gravity of the situation you're now in. Ha. Gravity. You're hanging. Sometimes I surprise even myself. Did you really think that I'd let you tell them anything? Did you really think you'd be safe?" 7 minutes. "Do you know how long a human being can live after being eviscerated? No. Neither do I. I have always wanted to know." The tension on the rope keeps him from screaming as I pull the large, twisted, rusty blade out of George's black duffel bag. "This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you. Oh wait no it won't." 6 minutes.
The slash leaves a jagged opening. His knees give, head goes back, and he tries to scream but the noose tightens. His eyes bulge. His eyes. Oh the terror in his eyes. That's what makes this so pleasant. Blood pools on the floor, I step back so as not to track it. I take the tape of ol' Georgie Boy. Put the blade in his hand, make sure the note is clearly visible, that's when Buzzer's intestines fall to the floor. The sound is music to my ears. 4 minutes. I walk out the door. Locking it behind me. A few adjustments and George is no more. Now I look like the just another bailiff. I step out into the garage, no one is around. I walk through the underground garage. I'm walking up the ramp when I hear the first scream. Except this isn't from the court. It's from in front of me, outside. Then gunfire lots of gunfire. I run up the ramp. I still can't believe what I'm seeing. A black 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 fastback screeches to a halt. The passenger door flies open. "We gots ta get out a 'ere now." I jump in. This is a real shame. All my fun ruined. Who's going to find Buzzer?
Date: July 23, 2014. Time: Unknown. Location: No Man's Land.
"I've heard of you. You're that damn reporter. The one who keeps chasing after the Dreadnoks. I've read some of your stuff. You wrote the piece on the Dollar Debs. I ain't telling' you shit. No way man…
You need to get on out of here…
I don't care if you can pay…
Wait those real DDDs?
What do you want to know?"
That's generally how each interview starts. Some jackass full of himself, thinking he knows shit about the 'Noks. Half these guys act like they are 'Noks. I bet they'd all piss themselves if they ever met one of the brothers.
I never ran with them, I'm not a 'Nok. I'm a reporter. A photojournalist. I've been compared to some character in a pre-shit comic about a war torn New York. I guess I'm like that kid, except this was my assignment: follow the 'Noks. I guess the PR firm and lawyers they hired thought it would be good publicity, they obviously didn't know their clients.
I've been following them since before the dead started walking. I've seen just about every kind of criminal act committed by these guys; murder, rape, sodomy, grand theft, larceny, you name it. One thing even these guys will never do is hurt a kid. They may beat their "old ladies" but if any touches a kid, even their own kid, well it's not a pretty sight.
If those dudes up in NYC are 1%ers, the 'Noks are 1% of them. The worst of the worst.
At the beginning of the shit the 'Noks, like so many criminals and gangs, fell off the radar. We had a more important enemy. Hell the reports coming in were that the Dreadnoks were helping rid the streets of THEM. As THEY spread and time wore on rumors started popping up of 'Nok serfdoms. Local chapter presidents taking upon themselves to rule over people in their areas. I've been following these leads. Found most of them are bullshit. Most have been 'Nok wannabes. I have found a few of the real deal. Found one of the founding members, Torch. He had another guy, Ripper, on a god damn dog pole, you know the kind that dog catchers used to use to catch crazy mutts. Only this was all modified with chains. Ripper had turned. Become one of THEM. But ol' Torch, he just couldn't let his buddy go so he kept him at arms length.
So what brings me out here? Out to No Man's Land? I'm looking for the leader. The real leader. Zartan. Stories, rumors, reports, all say he's somewhere out here and that something big is happening. I intend to find out what. It's what I do. It's in my blood. Who am I? You can call me Hatch.
I'll record whatever happens for the future. If we have a future.
Date: August 18, 2009. Time: 0645. Location: Deep in the Florida Everglades.
Crawling and scratching his way through the thick swamp is the lone survivor of the recent plane crash. He awoke to the splashing of hungry gators. Dangling 20 feet over the infested swamp he took it all in. It took him a while to come to his senses. When he did he realized he had been hanging for 2 days. Covered in bites, starving, and thirsty he tried to focus on his current predicament of which the snapping jaws of the gators below were a constant reminder. Clearing his head and remembering his training the Airborne Ranger set out to free himself.
Two hours later panting and exhausted Airborne found himself in the safety of a crotch of the tree from which he was previously prisoner. There remained one threat below. The voracious gators. For hours they circled below him. Jaws crashing together again and again. Then he heard it. A scream. Not just any scream. A blood curtailing scream. The scream of a man being tortured. He had to know. Working out a plan he made his way to the next tree. Exhaustion threatening to stop him in his tracks. A passing beetle fell prey to his hunger. As did any creature with in his reach. Hey if they could make a meal of him the least he could do is return the favor. For what felt like an eternity the screaming continued and he made his slow painful way to a small parcel of dry land he could make out in the distance.
Then it stopped. With the screaming stopped his stomach dropped. He looked back at his progress. He had finally made it to land but it had taken all day. The sun was nearly set. He knew the temperature would drop. The bugs would come out in force. He was in hell.
Date: August 20, 2009. Time: 1345. Location: Deep in the Florida Everglades.
- The screaming came from this way. Or was it that way. Keep it together man. You're better than this.
Having survived on little more than the insects he could catch and the rancid water of the swamp Airborne crawled on. He had to know who was screaming and why. It wasn't THEM he was sure. THEY would have finished by now and moved on. Probably to him. Only hours before the screaming had started again in ernest. He had heard nothing since they stopped. But he had to know.
When he had given up hope of finding the source of the torturous sounds that's when he found him. The clearing was straight out of a bad horror movie. Chains hung from dilapidated trees. The earth was stained brown with blood. Bones were scattered around the edges. Death was in the air. The shock of it swirled his vision. He stumbled. His face hit the ground with a sickening slap. The world was spinning. Pulling his head from the cold wet ground was too much. He wretched. Thankfully there was nothing to add to the smell of the circle. He rolled and saw him. Hanging by his ankles above him. The man's face, at least he thought it was a man, was swollen and purple. The nude body covered in horrific wounds. Blood caked over every inch. Airborne didn't know the poor soul but he knew he couldn't let him hang.
Searching for anything that might help cut him down Airborne discovered a blade covered in what he knew must have been this poor man's blood. Sawing through the rope sapped what little Airborne had left. He couldn't hold it. The man fell into a pool of his own blood and excrement. Airborne went over to the body. Weakly looking for anything that might identify who he was. There a tattoo. Upper right arm. Red. Blue. A box. Letters. "A. A." A yellow and black rocker above it reading "RANGER."
One last time his vision swirled. He knew the tattoo. He knew the man who had it well. They had served with each other for years. They had jumped into combat more than either cared to remember. If only he had gotten their sooner. If only he hadn't been so weak. He could have saved him. He could have saved him. God willing he'd get his revenge. He'd find whoever did this to his friend Crazy Legs. He'd find them and do much worse. Crazy Legs.
Then blackness. God wasn't willing. There would be no revenge. No succor. No last minute rescue.
The Everglades. The Swamp. Had claimed another victim. Tonight her denizens would feast on the flesh of two Real American Heroes.
R.I.P. Crazy Legs
Date: August 20, 2009. Time: 1200. Location: Deep in the Florida Everglades.
The scream echos out over the barren swamp. There is no worry about any of THEM finding their way out here. Even if they got through the gators, snakes, and the black water the dark concrete like mud would trap THEM in place. No there is no fear of THEM out here. This is their domain for now.
"I sWEaR I DoN't know WheRE HE is!"
"I believe you. Truly I do. Sister…"
The crack of a whip lays its twisted tongue in what looks like a block of ground meat. Only upon closer inspection, if one could stomach a closer look, you'd see the exposed vertebrae not of a head of cattle but of a man. Hanging from his arms, wrists raw from the rope, bloodied, bruised, beaten, half eaten by insects, insects that never seem to bother his two torturers, hangs a what is left of a once proud man. A man who was once a real American hero. A member of a top secret special ops group. A group whose members are invited from all the branches of service. Here in the middle of a sweltering swamp deep in the Everglades hangs a once proud member of G.I. Joe.
His torturers are brother and sister. A couple of corrupt degenerates whose cruelty is only surpassed by their enjoyment of inflicting pain. For 4 days now they have been systematically torturing their captive questioning him on the whereabouts of their eldest brother. But he has no answers. At first he stood his ground. Showing why he was one of the best. The attempted drowning, the pulling of fingernails, the breaking of fingers, ankles, knees. No, he was trained to be better than these two. He told them nothing. He doesn't remember what it was that opened the flood gates of information. Perhaps it was the pliers twisting and crushing his…
Whatever it was he spilled everything. He held back nothing. But none of it was good enough. He didn't have the information they wanted. That's when the really cruel things began. When they seemed to realize he didn't know. When they decided to start having fun. For the last 2 days he has prayed for death. Any death. But each day the sun rose and the "games" began anew.
As he passes in and out of consciousness sights and sounds pass before his eyes. An order issued. A plane with fellow Joes. An in flight briefing none of them could believe. More orders issued. A plan of attack. Something about the President and a visit to Tallahassee. A rescue. Turbulence. Red lights flashing. The sounds of metal tearing. They'd been hit. Flak filling the air. They jump. He watched as his fellow Airborne troops opened canopies. Six took flak. Dead. Weems. Chute didn't open. Dead. Talltree. What happened to Talltree? Then pain…
"I think he likes it dear Sister. Perhaps he'd like more."
"I do think you are correct Brother."
Blackness. It finally overtakes him. Blackness. The end. His prayers have been answered.
Chapter 11: The Badlands: Part 3: Confrontation
Date: August 4, 2009. Time: 0037 Location: Bad Lands, South Dakota
For many hours two men have been tracking a quarry whose identity they are unsure of. Each has his suspicions. What they both agree on is that nature is not herself this fine night. The air lacks the buzz of life. The younger attributes it to the conflict below them. The elder has no word for what might be causing this most unusual of behaviors from the denizens of the Bad Lands.
"I see him."
The expert tracker and spotter have finally found the prey they have been following for the last 12 hours. It has been no easy task, trying to track a target while a war rages between the United States and the Sioux Nation. However, they have avoided being seen. Now they stalk their quarry hoping that by capturing the "wild man in the mountains" they can bring this escalating battle to its resolution.
Without a word Dart circles around the target as Spirit remains. These two work in perfect harmony with each other and their surroundings. They know each move the other will make, the only unknown is the target. They have watched as the hard to track trail became more obvious. Dragging foot marks, a growing number of broken branches, blood spots on the foliage tell the duo that their target is injured and growing weak. This makes him a growing variable to their plans. How he will react to being captured they can only guess. As each man readies himself for the inevitable fight there is a sudden change in the behavior of their target. His masked face raises and begins to turn toward the location of Spirit. Before the two can react he disappears from sight.
"What just happened?"
The two enter the small clearing where the man they were tracking just vanished from.
"There is only one man who could do what we just witnessed."
"You are correct Dart. But why here and why now? He could have easily slipped out of the area at any given time."
"Perhaps his injuries prevented him?"
"His injuries…" Spirit squats over the last track of Zartan. Between his fingers he rubs a substance that he believed to be blood but now... "I don't believe he was injured at all. I believe we have been set up my friend."
"What do you think we should do."
"Stay and wait."
"I apologize but I have to ask, why?"
"Zartan would not have gone through all this trouble unless there was a reason. That he didn't fight speaks volumes. You have not had the dealings with the master of disguise as I have. He is honorable in combat. There is a reason he led us here. We must discover what it is. Prepare a fire I fear we should have to wait long."
A small easily concealed fire is built and the two wait. Each listening to the eerie silence of the wood. Time seems to stand still until out of the surrounding bush comes a sound which turns the men to stone. A sound that neither have ever heard made by a creature of this world. With a look the two know what they will do. Out of the bushes stumbles the source of the otherworldly noise. In the dim moonlight the attire of this new antagonist is missed by both man. They only notice that this man too is in all black. They prepare.
The bellowing moan coming from the man makes the hair of his hunters arms stand on end, yet they are not stopped. Dart reaches his mark sweeping the legs of the man out from under him while turning his targets body away from from Spirit. Spirit is upon him before he hits the ground driving his knees into the man's lower back. The only reaction is the continued moaning and struggling. Each hunter attempts to secure his area, Spirit the hands, Dart the legs. Securely bound they roll the man over on his back.
"Holy shit! It can't be!"
Staring up at the pair through a slitted visor is a man the two thought of as a friend. The lower portion of his mask torn away, his jaws distended, a low snarl snarl coming from his throat.
"He's injured. Untie him Dart. We must help him."
Dart immediately cuts the bonds off his friends ankles.
"I have to sit you up to cut your bonds my friend. Had we known it was you we would not have been so rough."
Spirit raises his long time colleague and begins to turn him to cut his bonds. At the same time the man turns jaws snapping at the hand of his friend. Dart reacts. He pulls Spirit away. Their injured friend struggles to get to his feet.
"He's obviously delirious. We must get him medical attention."
Dart has no chance to respond as their wounded comrade charges him, mouth wide, saliva flying wildly. Dart sidesteps the attack again sweeps his legs. This time the man regains his footing quicker only to have Spirit rush him from the back forcing him back to the hard earth face down.
"I do think we may have acted hastily. He is acting like a wild animal. Perhaps he has been bitten by a rabid inhabitant of the mountains?"
"Whatever it is I say we retie his legs."
"No. He is our friend, he is injured, he deserves to be treated respectfully. We will keep his hands tied to help prevent further injury. He will need his legs to walk."
Again Spirit tries to raise his friend to his feet. Again the man tries to attack him. The unanticipated action knocks Spirit to the ground. His friend is upon him snapping at him like mad dog. Spirit struggles to hold him at bay.
"He's trying to kill you."
"Dart I can not do what I would ask of you."
The request is met by the quick blade of the Dakota warrior. The head of the assailant falls to the ground, teeth still gnashing, still striving to sink into the soft flesh of its intended victim.
"What monster is this?"
"I do not know Dart. But it does not bode well for those below us."
As the teeth snap Dart kicks the head of his former friend into the fire.
Date: August 5, 2009. Time: 1200 Location: Bad Lands, South Dakota
Highway 17, once a quiet stretch or road full of beautiful vistas. Now home to a growing military, news, and civilian "town."
"The Battle at Crazy Horse has been raging for several days now. What started out as an investigation into a suspected terrorist attack against a Native American monument turned deadly when federal agents from FEMA the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI were murdered on live television after offering help to the local Sioux Tribal Council.
The Department of Homeland Security activated the National Guard prior to the outbreak of violence. The National Guard then found itself under attack."
"How did he get here?!"
"We sent Snake Eyes! He's the best. At least that's what we thought."
"Snake Eyes is a Joe."
"Don't be naive. Do you think the federal government would waste a talented asset like Snake Eyes with mere military actions? He's done more wet work for us than any other operative."
"Why him. Why not send Spirit or me?"
"Because you couldn't get the job done."
"How do you know?"
"Because the job was to kill everyone who may have come in contact with or been exposed to the subject. Man, woman, child. Take a look at yourself. Take a look at what you've already done. Do you really think we could have trusted you to kill these people?"
A single gunshot rings out as the agents head flies back as the bullet exits his skull.
"Spirit what have you done!?!?"
"I have done what we should have done a long time ago. I have retaken my freedom. For far too long I believed my actions were those of the right and just. I believed I was mending relations between peoples. The reality is I was a mere puppet. A puppet of men like Agent Rogers. Now I… No we must take back what is ours before we fall into oblivion."
Date: August 5, 2009. Time: 1700 Location: Bad Lands, South Dakota
"We have just received confirmation that the leaders of the most recent massacre are highly decorated soldiers. Members of the elite G.I.Joe Team. Operatives Charlie Iron-Knife and Jimmy Tall Elk were seen on video footage, broadcast live just hours ago through our local affiliate, cutting the scalps off of several restrained federal agents. The gruesome transmission was quickly cut off due to its highly graphic nature."