"Is your team ready, Lieutenant?"
"Yes, sir. Ready and waiting."
"Activate the gate!" The Communications Officers rushed to set coordinates, ensuring the proper alignment of the chevrons. The stone gate seems to come alive as the rings turn, aligning, the chevrons locking as they connect. With a woosh, an almost liquid looking substance shoots from the gate before returning to its position as a gateway through the circular monolith. The Stormtrooper Lieutenant turns to his team, the light emanating from the gateway giving him an ephemeral glow, "It's now or never!" And he steps through the gate.
"Bloody fuckin' 'ell." From the outside, the Iron Grenadiers made quick work of their defenses. They set explosives on the main entry door. The subsequent shockwaves rattle the building to its foundation. "Gunna! Brimstone! Secure the Gate!" The two men run off without a second look. "Scáthach! Castor! Get ready to push back the invaders!" They built the base with multiple layers of security including, areas reinforced to act as cover. The areas were further bolstered after the undead rising, to ensure not only clear lines of fire but maximum protection as well. "Pick your shots. Make each one count!" From behind them, they heard the roar of Gunna's shotgun. "There's nothing we can do for them. Either they stop whatever is coming through, or they die. That's the same choice we have." Just then, the first black helmet came poked around the corner. It dropped after a well-placed round from Scáthach found its mark. Then all Hell broke loose.
Bullets filled the air from both sides. Several more Iron Grenadiers fell, being pulled out of the area by their comrades.
In the Stargate room, Gunna and Brimstone were hard at work trying to repel the unknown forces coming through the Stargate. The invaders' armor was bright white. Their weapons shooting not lead, but high-velocity plasma that instantaneously melted a hole through whatever it hit. "Wha' the fuck are they shooting at us?" Brimstone doesn't answer Gunna. He lays down more cover fire emptying another magazine in the process. As Brimstone reloads, Gunna empties his Benelli M4 in seconds, hitting one of the advancing enemies.
Back at the front hall, the air is heavy with smoke, the smell of gun powder thick enough to choke on. Each Iron Grenadier they drop is pulled from the line, and two more take their place. "Last mag!" the words send chills down Dublin's spine. He knows that means Scáthach will transition to her pistol, making the base that much harder to hold. A group of Iron Grenadiers readies themselves to press their attack when their attention is taken off the Rangers shooting at them and is redirected at a new and unexpected threat the dead Iron Grenadiers begin to attack.
At the same moment in the bunker, the downed Storm Trooper reaches out a hand and grabs the ankle of his commanding officer, pulling him down. The Lieutenant lands with a hard thud. "What the?" He sees the trooper dragging itself towards him, its armor having broken open like a Puffer Turtle from Clak'dor VII. Black ooze fills the wound where there should be crimson blood. "Fuck!" He kicks at the Stormtrooper, knocking its helmet off, exposing the mottled gray skin and fogged over yellow eyes. Black puss leaches from it's snapping mouth. "The planets infected!" The words do not fall on deaf ears, their communications having been left open to the Imperial Base where the Empire has its Stargate. The Lieutenant points his blaster at the creature at his foot and sends a bolt straight through its cranium. "Request immediate evac!" The response, the closing of the Stargate followed by the frantic voice of their commander, "The Gate is locked. The planet is under Imperial quarantine." Just then, the double doors that lead out of the Stargate lab burst open, and three soldiers run through, slamming them shut and stacking crates against them. The sounds of flesh smashing against the door echos through the room, followed by the blood-curdling moan of the undead. All shooting stopped. The Rangers' split their attention between the bulging door and the armor-wearing enemies at their back. Had the Stormtroopers not been wearing helmets, the Rangers would have seen the abject terror on their faces. For all the good it did, the Rangers could hear, but not understand, what was being shouted by the white-clad attackers. All weapons turned toward the door. It pulsated under the repeated attacks of the flesh-eating creatures on the other side. "Dublin, what the fuck is going on?" The panic in Gunna's becoming palatable.
"I don't fuckin' know! We dropped them, and they turned!" The banging continued.
"What's the situation here?" Dublin was looking from the door to the aliens that seemed to be setting up some large weapon.
"I don't know, sir! These guys came through we killed one, they shot him in the head."
"How the fuck are they turning without being bitten?" Castor shouts as he grabs a rifle from the wall. The doors buckle. The hinges scream as they tear from the wall. The Rangers fall back near the new enemy that had come through the Stargate. The newcomers finish setting up a nasty-looking weapon. A Stormtrooper stands at the trigger controls while another stands back to back with him bracing him. The others look for cover. The Rangers follow suit. The doors give, and the grasping hands of the undead push through looking for a meal. Then, the Stormtroopers let loose with the E-Web heavy repeating blaster. The reinforced concrete is no match for the Imperial armament. The bolts tear through rock and flash alike. The horde struggles and trips over the bodies of the fallen; many truly dead, others trying to drag their way toward dinner.
“What the fuck happened here?” Greaser looked down the barrel of her rifle while panning left then right. The smell of rotting corpses mingling with the stench of the undead that they had found feasting. They had eliminated all threats before closing the gates.
“Oh shit.” Throttle freezes in her tracks. No matter how many years pass, seeing children that had been a buffet for the undead never got easier.
Minstrels of old fell into one of two categories, those who worked for the crown, entertaining court, and those that traveled using their songs to pay their way.
The Minstrel of the wastelands is neither. He’s not a minstrel at all. He is a jester. Thing is he didn’t know the difference when he started down his path of death and destruction, now the name’s stuck. Even still, jesters of medieval Europe entertained doing tricks and acting the fool, not so for this Minstrel.
The colorful character was a welcome distraction from the world outside the settlement’s walls. The kids watched in rapt awe as he tossed three bright juggling clubs into the air then spun in place while rhythmically clapping only to stop, catch each club in turn, and continue juggling. His act had been going on for some time. Nearly all the residents of the small hamlet were watching. Several guards had been drawn away from their posts by the sounds of happy children, children who were growing up in a world where happiness was a rare luxury. Smiles lit their faces as giggles escaped. The show was allowing them to be children rather than hardened survivors of an undead world.
This wasn’t the Minstrel’s first show. He’d been performing for some time now. He’d forgotten how he started. He’d forgotten when he started. His mind fractured in bits and pieces. His act always the same. Approach an outpost or enclave. Gain entrance. Entertain. Then...
He tosses two of the juggling clubs far into the air while simultaneously pulling the handle of one revealing a razor-sharp blade, which he quickly used to slice the throats of the children closest to him. The warm lifeblood was spraying into the air. The screams of children creating the chaos and confusion he needed. He reached out and caught the other two clubs pressing small buttons, which separated the tops from the blades. The bloody ballet he performed as he cut jugular after jugular a sight to see. Before the show, he had placed gift boxes around the perimeter “To mark the show area” now the Jack-In-The-Box sprang to life. These were no toys. They spewed his concoction of paralyzing gas into the air. Those that found themselves in the cloud froze, terror locked on their faces as his blades released their essence.
One after another. Those that tried to escape fell to blades buried in their backs. The guards that had remained at their posts heard the commotion. Did they stay to ensure THEY didn’t get in? Did they go to see if THEY were already inside? Screams echoed through the air. The Minstrel knew it was only a matter of time before the chorus of the dying attracted the already dead. He had to be swift, and he was, forty-three fell, including all the children.
“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 shit 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.
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 fuck 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?”
Throttle's 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.”
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.”
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.
Somewhere in California. 2016.
It’s been nearly 30 years since that fateful night back home. I still have it, Van Helsing’s Diary. Just in case he comes back. I don’t know how it would happen but then again zombies now rule the world. In between Dracula and the undead we had quite a run.
We kept the club going through school. A couple years before Patrick and I graduated, Rudy went to technical school to become a machinist. He’s also studied to become a gunsmith and taught himself all he could about being a blacksmith, all while he entered archery competitions. Horace joined the Army right out of high school. He said he hated being known as “Fat Kid.” He enlisted in the Infantry, went Airborne, became a Ranger, and ended up in the Special Forces. He became a mountain of a man with combat experience all around the world. When he finally got discharged he came home and joined the company. Eugene joined the military too. He went National Guard as 25C radio operator/maintainer. He stayed with the company the whole time. Patrick and I went away to college. Eugene kept the Monster Squad afloat while we studied. We both received BAs in Biology. My little sis, Phoebe, went on to study ancient languages at UCL (University College London). She worked as a translator on the side. The Monster Squad became a company, complete with; tax id, workers comp insurance, the whole nine. It wasn’t easy though.
See, after the final battle with Dracula the government took over our town, within 24 hours our small piece of America was swarming with federal agents from various branches: FBI, CIA, NSA, we even have photographic evidence of MIB, Men In Black, but no one would believe us, we were just kids with crazy imaginations. Somehow they were able to convince nearly the whole town that a storm had resulted in a tornado touching down and causing the damage. The dead cops, they were injured by debris trying to get people to safety. Those cops gave their lives trying to stop the Forces of Darkness from taking over, they’re heroes. The reports of monsters written off as delusions. No matter what we said, what evidence we presented, we were laughed at and patted on the heads. The patronizing was infuriating. But rather then get discouraged and break up the club we doubled down and began researching other legends, building our armory: wooden stakes, silver bullets, arrows, knives, any arcane items we could get our 12 year old hands on. It wasn’t until we were all older that we began including firearms.
What kept us going? Stories of other groups mainly Mystery Inc. who traveled the Midwest and California, the Goonies up in Oregon, and the Ghostbusters in New York City. They were all over the news, especially Mystery Inc. While they uncovered that most crimes were caused, not by monsters but rather greedy men in elaborate costumes, we wanted to focus on the other things that went bump in the night. We researched the reports of Gremlins of California, the Critters of Kansas, I got to go on a Graboids hunt in the Midwest. We tried to find the Necronomicon, rumors have it that some Vegas magician had it locked it. We investigated the nightmare man called Freddy, we checked out Camp Crystal Lake. We had some successes, eliminating cursed mummies as well Lycan, and even some stray vampires. The Monster Squad began to have a reputation of taking on the jobs everyone else was scared of.
Then THEY came. The undead. The zombies.
We were definitely better prepared then the other groups around the states. We had the experience fighting for our lives, we had the weapons, and we had two guys with the training, Eugene and Horace. Horace had trained us with Eugene’s help. So we knew how to shoot, how to avoid detection, squad combat, the whole nine. It’s served us well these last few years. We’ve secured a warehouse and have been able to stockpile loads of supplies; food, water, medicine, ammunition. There’s a garden up on the roof as well as a water reclamation unit to collet rain water. We put in a septic system and our perimeter is tightened up tighter then Gill-Man’s ass. Lately we’ve been picking up radio chatter about strange things happening. Stranger then the dead walking. Cults and “Old Gods” type stuff. We’re planning a trip to a location nearby where it’s said that Mystery Inc is being held captive by an abomination. We’ll see if we can help.
We are the Monster Squad.
Date: March 17, 2015. Time: 1300. Location: Somewhere in southern Ireland
St. Patrick's Day. A day celebrated the world over by flooding any drinking establishment with even a cursory chance of being "Irish" or at least the one with the most plastic green decor, and indulging in a pint of the finest ale, stout, or whiskey that happy hour prices advertise.
Nowhere was this more true then in the United States, where generations of Irish immigrants took the once venerated holiday and turned it into shit show filled shenanigans. From Boston to New York to middle of nowhere middle America, people lined up to not remember what they did. If America was #1 with the St. Pats binge drinking crew the Irish capital of Dublin was a close second. Tourists would flood the streets looking for the traditional St. Patrick's Day celebration totally unaware that tradition meant church. Instead they'd get what they really wanted, sloppy drunk on cheap, yet still overpriced, green drinks.
Those days are long gone now.
The streets of Dublin, and all of Ireland in fact, were torn asunder by the flesh eating mobs that took the small nation by storm.
The Queen had tried to assist her Irish citizens, mobilizing all her forces. However, as history had taught the world, when it came to the defense of the United Kingdom what really happened was England was kept safe while everyone else was essentially on their own. In Ireland the survivors rallied together rising up to protect neighborhoods, then single blocks, then a street, and finally a single building. As the numbers of citizens dwindled the numbers in the horde grew. In the end THEY won. The current population of the Emerald Isle is unknown, at least it is to the five who have been defending and protecting a relic from another time. A relic from another place.
The Hooligans are a small highly specialized unit of Irish Army Rangers tasked with safeguarding the Stargate. A passage to other worlds. The only one in all of Europe and one of only a handful around the world. With the potential power of the Stargate it had always amazed the members of the unit that the totality of the British military hadn't come and taken control of it. Instead the five hand picked mission specialists were all that kept it from falling into the wrong hands. Whose those would be they had come to question as of late.
It has been six years since Idaho. Five since the fall of London and Dublin. Four and a half since everything went belly up. The Hooligans; Dublin, Castor, Brimstone, Scáthach, and Gunna had been on site from the beginning watching the world fall. They had stood their ground admirably as the personnel of the small Stargate complex began turning. It was no easy task to eliminate the very people they were assigned to protect but the horde had caught them off guard. The battle took them to the outer doors of the room holding the Stargate. The ensuing battle became one of many "last stands" the Hooligans amassed over the intervening years. After the smoked had cleared and the bodies counted, 295 personnel along with 371 civilians had been disposed of.
Several more assaults had occurred with diminishing numbers each time. For the last year they hadn't seen a single zombie, nor anything or anyone else. They talked about abandoning their posts and going out into the real world but there was no good reason other then curiosity. They had more then enough supplies, especially after raiding the small village 10km from the base.
So they stayed and waited, for what they weren't sure.
"Really? Blood sausage?"
"Damn right. My gran made the best damn blood sausage in the U.K. What about you?" Gunna takes a swig of water from his canteen, he already knew the answer, 'fish & chips.' They've had this conversation hundreds of times since it all started, 'what food would you have if you could have anything?'
"Chicken Tikka Masala."
Gunna spits his water across the room choking as he tried to speak. For three years the answer was always the same. "Wh-what the..."
"Yup. Chicken Tikka Masala. There's this Indian place Kashmir, in Galway, best damn Chicken Tikka Masala probably on the planet."
"I'm just messin' with ya. Fish & chips of course." The fiery redhead lets out a small laugh, "You should see the look on your face. It's like you've seen a ghost." Scáthach’s smile slowly disappears as she realizes that Gunna not only isn't laughing but is looking right past her.
The cottage they are in is typical for the area. Small, 2 floors, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a small eat-in kitchen and living room on the first floor. The living room includes a couch covered in a gaudy floral pattern, facing a small fireplace with a flatscreen TV mounted above the mantel. A couple of cushion covered chairs sit off to the side facing each other currently occupied by Scáthach and Gunna. Gunna's chair also facing the grimy double window. That looks out onto the derelict street. Scathach slowly turns in her chair. Her jaw drops. Time slows as the two try to process what is heading there way.
The two soldiers have been coming to the cottage for years. It sits nearly in the center of the small village 10km from the Stargate base, it is the only town within 25km. Connected to the base by an underground passage the cottage was always planned as an emergency escape route should something happen at the facility. After the first battle at the station the team commander, Dublin decided that the cottage would be a good look out for zombie hordes or attackers making their way towards the base. Since then the shifts have been a week at a time, overlapping, so that while one person is leaving the next is on their way.
Two years ago all they'd seen was the random zombie straggler. One watcher would walk out, dispatch, and dispose of it. This became little more then routine. For the last year even that routine has faded. The village had no survivors. In its pervious life it had been an elaborate ruse. The village really being housing for all the Stargate staff. Positioned at such a distance to allow those at home to escape or defend their world from an extraterrestrial event. Now the Hooligans were all that remained.
That was until today.
Outside the window coming methodically down the street were people they had hoped to never encounter. Before the fall there had been numerous briefings on the actions and movements of those coming down the street. The afternoon sun glinted off the midnight black helmets. The red face masks identifying their ranks. Iron Grenadier Troopers. A platoon of Destro's finest soldiers were a mere 4 small village blocks away and they weren't alone. Supporting the Iron Grenadiers was a Razorback, a large piece of armor with an intense amount of firepower, the missile racks at the ready, an officer in a blackened mask different from the rest controlling the turret. It barely made it down the narrow village street but it was carefully making its way toward the two Hooligans’ current location.
It took mere seconds for the realization to set it, the Stargate was going to come under siege. They jumped into action grabbing weapons and gear, Gunna snatching his radio, "I'm calling it in."
"Hardline coms only. We don't know if they're listening." Scáthach responded.
“Roger that.” Grabbing the hardline, a phone right out of the 1960's with a single direct line to the watch station. He impatiently held it to his ears, three blocks away now, he knew back at the watch room a red light was flashing and a tone was squelching. "C'mon. C'mon."
"Anything." Scáthach asks her meticulously kept sniper rifle pointed down range in the direction of the Razorback, the officer in her sights.
"Does it sound like it.” The tension in the room threatening to spill out. At the fourth ring, "Hey what's up." The lackadaisical voice of Brimstone on the other end.
"We have a level one threat. Repeat. Level one threat. Over." Two and a half blocks.
Hearing the message brings Brimstone forward in his seat, "Received. Level one threat." He immediately enters several commands into the computer in front of him and hears the foot falls of the other Hooligans coming to the watch room. "Count. Over."
"Platoon. 2 squad trooper. 2 squad heavy. Armor present. Razorback." Two blocks. The IGs suddenly stop the officer barking orders from atop the imposing armor. Teams of two begin kicking in doors and doing full top to bottom sweeps.
"What's going on out there...?" The silence from Gunna puts Brimstone on Edge. Dublin and Castor listening in.
"Door to door. We're bugging out." With that Gunna slams the phone down on the receiver. Hearing the call, Scáthach immediately turns towards the basement door. The two waste no time getting downstairs, flipping a switch, and watching the furnace slide to the side revealing a set of dimly lit stairs heading to the corridor connecting to the Stargate operations center. They head down before the furnace has fully moved and flip another switch sliding it back into place. Before its settled back they are already on the sled, a one-time use quick extraction vehicle utilizing combined pulley and air booster systems designed to let them cover the 10km in minutes. Scáthach hits the power button which releases a quick hiss of air, then the release. The force of acceleration pushing them against the barely padded backrests.
They come to a quick stop at the end of the long tunnel. Waiting for them are Dublin and Castor. Meanwhile Brimstone continues monitoring the long range sensors.
“Update." Dublin asks strain clear in his voice.
Gunna is first to respond, “They showed up out of nowhere. Then started kicking in doors. One platoon. Two squads of IG Troopers and it looked like 2 squads of IG Heavies. Most definitely heading this way.”
“Don’t forget the nasty looking’ Razorback manned by Darklon.” Scáthach adds.
“Yeah I was trying to not think about that.”
“Darklon? Shit.” is all Dublin could say. They all know the odds are not in their favor. Dublin stands tall, “Activate all perimeter defensive measures. Prepare to defend the Bonn. Castor prep the auto-destruct. We can’t let the Stargate fall into Darklon’s hands.” Without another word the Hooligans set about readying their defenses. The Stargate had remained dormant for years. All those trained in its operation having been turned into mindless flesh eaters. No one on the other side was trying to come through either. Nonetheless the possibility of it falling into the wrong hands, someone like Darklon and the Iron Grenadiers, was unimaginable. Castor set to work readying a self destruct mechanism that would go off in one of two circumstances, either all the Hooligan’s biometric scanners would register them as dead or if any one of the Hooligans entered their personal code. Either method would have the same results. Setting off a chain reaction explosion starting at the Stargate and then each relevant system in turn. In two minutes all that would be left is a crater and scarred earth.
Brimstone called out from the workstation, “Perimeter sensors are going off line one at a time.”
Dublin immediately headed over, “What do you mean?”
“I mean it looks like they know where all our tech is and they’re disabling it as they reach it.”
“How far out are they?”
“If I’m right they’ve come through the village completely and are approximately 9 klicks out.”
“Shit.” Doing some quick calculations in his head, “We have less then 3 hours before it lights up. Do what you have to do to. Pray to whatever god you hold dear.”
The Hooligans set out, readying magazines, cleaning and checking spotless weapons. Going over in their heads how they want to die. The minutes tick away in silence. Dublin replacing Brimstone at the console, watching as each sensor array goes off line marking the ever encroaching enemy forces. One by one the other Hooligans gather behind him, watching over his shoulders. 7 klicks. 6 klicks. 5 klicks. 4 klicks. 3. 2. 1. “They’re less then 30 minutes out. It’s almost time. You all know what you have to do. Hold you position as long as you can. They’ll be in range of our remaining automatic defenses any minutes, but if it goes anything like it has, they already know where they are and will disable them. Leaving just us. You all know what’s at stake here.” Heads slowly nod in agreement. “I want you all to know it’s been an honor serving with you.”
“Same here sir.” Castor.
“Never would have made this long without ya sir.” Gunna.
“It’s been an honor to serve by your side sir.” Scáthach.
“Sir… We have a bigger problem.” Brimstone’s tone and voice gets everyone’s attention. “Look at the readouts.” They all turn. The monitors for the Stargate were off the charts. The video feed showed that somehow the gate was turning, aligning, preparing to open. Then the all too familiar sound, fwoosh, the liquid like surface propelled forwards then settled back, it’s surface glimmering.
Dublin could only muster, “Bloody fuckin’ ‘ell.”
Date: March 9, 2015. Time: Unknown. Location: Somewhere 65 miles from New Springfield
It's been six years since that fateful night. The tragic 911 call that came to announce the rising of the undead. The screams had been played by the media over and over again in the early days. The screams became symbolic of the times.
6.8 billion people hunted down to unknown millions. Could be hundreds of millions. Could be 1 million. Billions joined the ever growing ranks of the undead. Hundreds of millions more died due to the nuclear fallout. Still more found their end due to starvation, dehydration, the resurgence of once extinct illnesses, others to suicide, then there was the unspeakable loss of life at the hands of monsters.
Right now none of that mattered. Right now all there is is survival. The lone stranger needed to make it to New Springfield, come hell or horde.
He had hunkered down when it all happened. He had supplies to last several years. They'd run out 2 years ago. He'd spent the intervening time scavenging. There hasn't been much to find. Living things are scarce. Living things that are easy and safe to eat even more so. Then there's the water.
He'd seen all the movies growing up. He'd been a fan of that one show the Walking Walkers. Stupid name, "walkers." Were they all related to that Texas Ranger? His kids perhaps? Or had the people in that show never seen a zombie movie?
That would be some weird alternate reality shit. A world where no one made zombie movies. Or tv shows. Or t-shirts, bobble heads, candy. Mmm. He'd chop off his own hand for a candy bar. Perhaps a Snickers. He can see the commercial now; some undead bastard is chasing a bunch of people on a soccer field and someone yells, "Hey Mark eat a Snickers." The dumb fool holds his hand out to the zombie, candy bar in hand, the thing turns, grabs the arm, and tears into it. Blood squirts wildly into the air. The shambling piece of crap looks up, flesh clinging to its chin and winks at the camera teeth glistening. The fresh maker.
No. That's not right. Damn it. His thoughts are jumbled. It's hard to focus on any one thing for too long. Except for his goal. Get to New Springfield. The last people he came upon had told him all about it. They have big strong walls with armed guards at the top. Enough food and water for everyone. Enough food to plump them up. He was tired of thin, bony, wiry meals. He dreamed of fat, soft, scrumptious morsels.
He licked his lips just thinking about it. New Springfield. The ultimate all you can eat buffet. He was nearly there.
Date: October 28, 2012. Time: 0900. Location: Somewhere in Nevada
That infernal grin. And that sickening cackling. I won’t go away. I won’t stop. It’s been incessant since this all started; day, night, it doesn’t matter. That smile of shattered rotten teeth and dead eyes filled with blazing hellfire…
“Harry.” The slap across his face is quick and hard leaving his cheek tingling.
“What was that for?”
“What was that for?” Throwing his hands up in frustration the exasperated Ron turns towards Hermione, “You deal with him. I can’t.” Her eyes go from the man she loves to her constant companion, the man they both feel compelled to protect.
“Harry where have you been?”
“I was here.”
“Yes, your body was but your mind… It was definitely somewhere else. Do you remember where?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I also don’t see what all the fuss is about. So I didn’t hear Ron. So what.”
“So what?” Frustration edging towards anger drips from Ron, “We’ve been trying to get your attention for 3 hours!” The words hit Harry like a sucker punch.
“You’ve been out of it Harry. Totally unresponsive. We’ve tried everything; splashing you with water, shaking you, loud noises.” The pity in her eyes leaking into her voice.
“Finally I slapped you.” The anger replaced with sadness and a touch of guilt.
“I’m sorry Hermione. I’m sorry Ron. I really am. I don’t… I don’t know what came over me.”
Ron places his hand on the shoulder of his best friend, “It’s okay Harry we’re here for you. You’ve just gotta tell us what’s going on. We need to know. We deserve to know. And… I’m sorry I hit you.”
“You’re right Ron.”
“Then let us help you.”
“It’s… It’s the Necrinomicon.”
“You know very well that it’s more then just a ‘book’ Ron.” Irritation spilling over into his voice.
“Okay man. So what about it?”
“I think it’s responsible for all this.”
“Well maybe not all of it but definitely something.” Looking at his friends he can sense their apprehension. “Do you remember when this all started back at the ___?”
“Of course. How could we forget Harry?” Hermione asks incredulously.
“Well when we went back to the room and got it I opened the box.”
“You did what?” The anger back in Ron’s voice.
“I looked at it. It was, awake. Smiling even. It hasn’t stopped. It’s burned into my mind. When I close my eyes there it is. And now even when I’m awake I see it.” He anxiously locks eyes with Hermione, “That’s where I was. Watching it. It just grins and now… Now it’s laughing.”
“The book laughs?” interrupts Ron, doubt plain on his face.
“No not the Necrinomicon. It’s something in the background. Something sinister. I don’t quite know how to explain it. But I swear it’s real. Even now I can here it in the background. Can’t you?” Ron and Hermione look at one another then back at Harry. Ron speaks up first, “Sure man, we hear it.” The relief on Harry’s face is all the reward they need for the white lie. “Give us a second will you Harry?”
“I’m not crazy.”
“No one is saying you are.”
“I’m not crazy. I’m telling the truth.”
“It’s okay buddy we believe you we just need to take a second to talk about where we go next.” The pair walk hand in hand across the wrecked hotel suite, sure that Harry won’t overhear their conversation, “He’s getting worse Hermione.”
“How many pills do we have left?”
“6-7 days max and that’s at half doses.”
“That’s not good.”
“No. It’s not.”
“We’ve gotta find more.”
“Yes Ron I know we do.”
“Hey.” He places his hand on her cheek making sure they make eye contact, “I’m not the enemy.” She places her hand over his nuzzling into the warmth of his strong fingers. “I know Ron. I’m not frustrated with you, just all of this. The world is falling apart at the seems. There are zombies eating people, tearing them limb from limb everywhere we go. And Harry, he’s losing his grip on this reality and there is nothing we can do.”
“Stop right there. As long as Harry has us that won’t happen. As for what to do, there has to be a pharmacy or a clinic we haven’t searched yet.”
“You know those things are always at them. Every single one we’ve been to. It’s almost like they are waiting for us.”
“True, but that just means we keep doing what we do, killing zombies and finding meds.” He looks deep into her eyes, “We’re in this together, all of us. We’ll help Harry like we always do.” Her smile is all he needs. As he is about to turn back to his friend muttering across the room from them he feels her hand in his, “Ron?” He turns, “Yes.” The kiss catches him off guard but he gives into it. Their arms circling one another. Holding each other a reassuring strength spreads between them. Slowly they pull away from one another. Ron looks down at his love, “We’re in this together never forget that. Now let’s get back to Harry.” They turn back towards the former Vegas legend, a magician and illusionist of the highest caliber now sitting on a dirty couch knees pulled up to his chest, arms pulling them in close, muttering over and over, “The Old Ones are not happy. The Necrinomicon is.”