Zombie Portal

          The Revolution Factory presents its Feature Presentation from the beginning, a tale of love and survival, suffering and the men and women a monster-world forces you to become. Help find out what makes life worth living and what's worth dying for. Help find out...

Two truths will always be... You cannot put chaos in a formula, and man will never be able to see what is coming next. Make no mistake, the latter follows the former.
                        -Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase (Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics) 

1.1.0 Two Dies Are Cast

Jessup, MD

He had a good life. He had a good job. Driving while he works everyday was a plus for Ansem. He never thought he would have this much to begin with. He owned the truck and basically had his own shipping company. Right off Route 1, Ansem was not twenty minutes from Washington, D.C.; the center of it all. There was always business in the capital. Ansem was swelling with jobs. He had no real family. He could drive all across the country if he wanted.

Ansem instead lived in his late parents’ house, the house he grew up in. He stayed in crowded Maryland and made thousands and thousands of dollars over the years of getting contracts. Ansem did not do much. He never went out nor had people over. He had very few hobbies. When he was a kid, the only thing he played with was his chem-set.

Ansem wanted to be a scientist his entire life; not just any science, but one remembered and rich, with his own laboratory, someone who cured something major, like cancer or AIDS. And yet his life did not lead him there. Out of high school he went away to college and was called home halfway through his first year when his mother fell ill. It took her nine months to die, the same amount of time he grew to live inside her womb. Ansem never returned to school. Instead he stayed home and took care of his heartbroken dad. In five years their lives were beginning to get better. Ansem’s father then died of a heart attack.

He had no chance to get him to the hospital. The heart attack took three seconds, three seconds… one moment’s thought…that is all it took to kill his dad. There was nothing anybody could do. In all honesty, his father was dead the moment they lost his mother. Ansem was left alone, and with this big empty house. There was only one reason he did not move and start his life over. Instead, it has been over twenty years and Ansem is a quiet millionaire living amongst normal people, maintaining his guise as the blue collar delivery guy. He did all of this, all these years, for one person in mind, the reason he stayed...

There is nothing in this world that he would not do for her and she had no idea. They barely even knew each other. But Ansem had lived next to Rebecca for seven years now, and he knew enough about her to know that he loved her. Now all he had to do was talk to her.

New York, NY

The Manhattan morning was clear with a bright blue sky. The kids were all up and getting ready for school when Samuel came downstairs. “Did I miss breakfast?” Samuel asked his wife.
“No darling, the girls just wake up early with Mommy. And Warren!” Samuel’s wife banged on the wall, “…is going to be late!”            
Just then a bedroom door opened and the front door slammed shut. Their oldest was in his last year of prep school. Samuel walked up behind Vanessa. 
“Could it be, Doctor Chase…that we have the house to ourselves?”
"I wouldn't say that..." remarked Samuel as the neighbor's dog came running into the kitchen, looking for some breakfast.
"Warren keeps letting him in and not taking him back to Allen," Vanessa explained.
"Go home, Jackson!" Samuel shooed the pup out the back door.
“You’re going to be late too, Doctor.”
“They can wait for me.”

An hour later, Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase entered his research company’s funded wing at Manhattan Tech. He was late for his presentation on his latest theory. Dr. Chase was the head of his department, albeit the smallest department in the field of physics.

Samuel got through the door of his office and switched out of his jacket and into his blazer. He slid his already-knotted tie around his neck and under his collar. A quick brush to the hair and he was back out the door. Samuel ran back into the office to get his notes and finally got to the meeting in the lecture room over twenty minutes late.

When Samuel opened the door the clocks were rolled back. He laughed and to cover catching his breath he scoffed, “Now suppose I just went back in time.” Everyone had a laugh or a gasp at the reality and comfort with Samuel’s tone. They talked amongst themselves as he got ready. He got his stuff together and onto the podium and started up his laptop. He turned on the projector and opened the slideshow he had ready.

Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase was a leading mind in theoretical and quantum physics. Today his lecture was on the theoretical analysis of whether time travel was possible and/or achievable. There were six representatives from the pentagon present at the lecture. All but one got up and left during it. General Saarsgard of the Air Force stayed and let the eccentric doctor of science finish what he had to say.

The other representatives shrugged it off as nonsense, but in reality they were listening to a man far ahead of his time. He was talking about cracking the scientific code of chaos and unlocking the space time continuum. The general took away one important fact over all of them when he left, exactly what Samuel intended, Traveling to the future was impossible, you could not be able to tell what would be there waiting for you; but a carefully constructed window into the past could be ascertained. Unbeknownst to anyone, a squad of pilots was chosen and issued orders by General Saarsgard to begin top secret training in Cheyenne Mountain for navigating through “deep space”.

It was a hard couple of months after that for Doctor Chase. From how the Pentagon reps had reacted to the lecture to the talk around the institute, rumors of his theory had turned Samuel into a social pariah. His field was always on the edge of fact and fiction. This might have put it over the top. He continued his research with his grad students, but even they started to dwindle in numbers. He was losing his integrity as a scientist. Soon he would have to make a decision…call off this crazy hunt for time travel or risk losing his career and family over it. Samuel could always see down the line; no matter how thick the fog got…

1.2.0 Love and Tachyons

Jessup, MD

It was time for Ansem's daily routine of crossing paths with Rebecca as he got home from work and she was leaving for her shift at the hospital. 
“Hi, Mr. Weathers.” 
Christ, she called him mister. If he only just opened his mouth and talked to her she would find that he was not that much older than her. The beard throws people off. Every time he tried to talk his voice would drop out, but he went for it anyway, “Hi, Reb…” his words dissipated into the air as he tried to pick it back up with a wave, “...becca.” Ansem smiled like an awkward idiot and was unsure if she even heard him; another squandered moment.

He walked into his house and made himself dinner. Later Rebecca would get home at four in the morning. The only light that was still on in Ansem’s house was coming from the basement window. Rebecca was so tired she thought little of it. The next day Ansem finished his truck route to the pharmacies and sporting goods stores and looked forward to his daily moment with Rebecca. All the way home he practiced different ways to say hello, “Hi Rebecca!” “ Great Day today!”  “Hey neighbor!” “Same shit, different day!”  That last one might leave too much of an impression. But maybe that’s exactly what he needed to do.

When Ansem got home and parked his enormous truck out on the street instead of in his drive, as he was known to do, he saw Rebecca talking to someone else. It was the mailman. But it was too late for him to still be making his rounds. This could only mean one thing... He was there on a personal call. Ansem walked down the stone path to his front door facing them the entire way. It wasn’t so bad, the awkwardness was cut with a brown bag of groceries he was holding, blocking any potential eye-contact. He thought about waving but that seemed silly.

Ansem rushed into his house and closed the door. When he turned his head to have a look out the window, he tripped on the ottoman and spilled his groceries all over the floor. The carton of milk broke open. It was a mess. Ansem got up and screamed. He pulled the fireplace spike out and slammed it into the ottoman, cutting holes in it, carving out the stuffing. Ansem got all his pent up frustration out. He briefly fantasized about them hearing him and coming over. Ansem’s paranoia then got the best of him and he immediately calmed down, cleaned the mess, and fixed the ottoman before hiding down in his basement for the rest of the night.

New York, NY

Samuel was spending days on end at his campus laboratory. He kept telling Vanessa that he was on the verge of a breakthrough that could save his career. He was not able to give up this theory. They were threatening to take away his grants and tenure. Samuel didn't want to go home because he feared they would change the locks on him.

“If I can just make the tachyon converter work…” Samuel muttered to himself in front of the chalkboard. It was almost two in the morning. He was staring through over-tired eyes and blotchy glasses. Only one thing could break him from this spell... Vanessa walked into the office. “You can make it work tomorrow, honey. Let’s go home.” She brought his jacket over and covered him with it.
“Oh, Vanessa, I think I screwed up bad this time.” The bourbon was heavy on his breath. The empty bottle went unnoticed on the floor between the couch and the wall.

Vanessa Chase drove her husband home and he did not lose his job, for the time being. Thankfully, nobody saw her drag his drunk-ass out of there. The next day Samuel woke up and saw his last dream echoing in his mind. It looked like the formula to the tachyon converter, but then it became a silver box with an indented curve riding down both sides of it to a point, at the point there was an opening that light was pouring out of...

Every time the light broke his vision the feeling remained the same. This was the tachyon converter. Vanessa was right; he did find it the next day. What they both did not know, what they could not know, is that time travel required more than just particles that travel backwards through time. Samuel would have to find that out the hard way in the days to come. 

1.3.0 A Step Forward for a Step Back

Jessup, MD 
Ansem Weathers signed off on the deal and they drove his truck away. He stood on his front lawn and took a deep breath. After they drove it off, he found that Rebecca had wandered over behind him. Curious of what was happening to her neighbor she asked, “Where are they taking your truck, Mr. Weathers?”
“I sold it.” He said without a hitch.
“And please,” he continued, now turned towards her, “call me Ansem.”
“What are you going to do now…Ansem..?”
“I bought my own warehouse in Montana, the largest shipping and receiving hub in the entire country.”
“Sounds…expensive…” Rebecca tried to wrap her mind around it.
“Ought to….cost me about fifty million dollars.”
Rebecca’s jaw dropped so low it almost hit the grass. “Ansem I had no idea you were rich!”
“I’m not rich. I’m just a good saver.”
“How much have you saved up?”
“I don’t know… two-thousand-five?”
“Close to a hundred million dollars.”
“Oh my god! You’re taking me out to dinner,” Rebecca demanded as she punched his chest playfully.       
Ansem started following her to the car. Rebecca turned around and laughed, “Not right now, I’m going to work. But how about Saturday at eight?”
“Good-bye, Mr. Rockefeller.”
“Oh…you can just call me- oh…right...bye.”
Rebecca shook her head, still giggling as she got in her car and drove off. Ansem stood in her front yard. He jumped up and down. Did he just? Was that? Did he really get a date for Saturday night with Rebecca, the love of his life? All he needed was a car. He had five days and millions of dollars to get a car before Saturday.
New York, NY
Manhattan Tech looked closed for the night. One window stayed lit. Samuel did not leave his laboratory for some time. His family went on without him. They were very much used to this by now. Both they and he knew he was on the verge of one of his breakthroughs. No intern or grad student could help him now. His co-workers had long given up on Dr. Chase’s theories. If it wasn’t for his small steps and logical backing Samuel would have been kicked out of the scientific community years ago. As he became world-renown for his proofs in nuclear physics out of school, Samuel’s tastes evolved and he became fixated on theoretical physics. And overnight he went from a scientist handling uranium to a professor pushing term papers. 
He never lost his knack for the field though. Dr. Chase only agreed to come to Tech because they were the only ones who would accommodate his demand for a lab. Although most of his work was done on his chalkboard, every so often the next step in his theories would call for a lab procedure or field experiment. The first time Samuel sat in his laboratory he got this feeling. He knew this would be the place where he makes history. 
Since then, he has faced much ridicule in the science community for his beliefs in tachyons and time travel. Everyone considered the notions, but no one ever tried to prove it. That’s just career suicide. Once Samuel took up this mission he knew he would have to sacrifice certain things, and so he did. He knew the last of them would be his integrity. Now that time was at hand and Samuel was pinched by his lurking failures to come up with a suitable formula. 
Samuel sat up in his seat. He stared down at his notes. It was an empty stare. Most of the equipment was off in the laboratory. He sat as his cluttered desk with the only light on over him and the chalkboard. The chalk was almost spent as most of it was on the board already in equation form. Samuel reached into his suit jacket, from the inner breast pocket he pulled out a golden pocket watch. Samuel clicked it open and admired it; a gift from his wife. 
Sam knew tachyons were integral in the equation but he could not find a way to apply them without having the same effect as every other scientist who tested them. Samuel concentrated on one of his best tools, his ability to see outside of the box. Perhaps there was a second piece to this puzzle that he had never considered. What if the tachyons are nothing but a secondary effect? 
Samuel got up from his desk and grabbed the chalk. He cleared some space with his sleeve and drew a circle. He wrote “tachyons” inside the circle then stepped back. He used his sleeve again to erase “tachyons” from the inside of the circle. Samuel then wrote “tachyons” along the outside of the circle. That was it. He stepped back again and wondered what was to go inside the circle…

1.4.0 Taking a Leap of Faith

Jessup, MD 

 Ansem pulled into the restaurant with a brand new Mercedes-Benz. Rebecca loved it. For a second, on the car ride over to the restaurant Ansem thought about giving her the car as a present. But in better judgment, he decided not to bring it up. Rebecca was having a good time so far on a date with her next door neighbor. The neighbor she knew practically nothing about except his truck was recently repossessed. And what kind of jumping off point is that? So besides friendly banter and questions about the new Mercedes, they really didn’t have much to talk about. 

Rebecca searched in silence to talk about something. As a female doctor she took great pride in handling the situation and calling the shots, in everyday life she also felt the need to take the lead, to show that women can do it all, and be good at it. In a year’s time she will have proven that but to a dead audience and hallow legacy. 

“Where are you from?” she began.
“Where’s that?”
“East of here, near Baltimore.”
“Is your family still there?”
“My family is … gone. My mother died of cancer and my father short after died of a heart attack.”
“Oh…” Rebecca choked, “I’m so sorry to bring it up.”
“It’s okay, Rebecca. You were going to find out eventually. I’m glad you know about my past, now you see me for who I am.”
“…And where you come from.” She finished for him.     
Ansem reached across the table of bread and water and held her hand. Rebecca blushed as she looked down at her white napkin on her lap contrasting with the black dress she was wearing. She looked back up at Ansem, into his eyes. The way he talked to her, it was as though they had been lifelong friends, as if they already knew everything about each other, as if…he had been waiting to talk to her for twenty years. Rebecca felt connected to Ansem, and it was only their first date. Something was rushing her feelings for him, and she was scared what. 

They ordered dinner, and enjoyed their meals shortly after. The night went off quite nicely after a stumbled opening. Ansem drove Rebecca back home. She lay back in her seat and moaned about how full she was. Ansem used every fiber of his being not to let the car crash while failing to refrain from checking her out. Rebecca looked at him and Ansem shot up, putting his concentration back on the road. 

“…So…what happened with your truck, Ansem?”
“That’s a long story with a happy ending. What if I just told you that instead?”
“The ending?”
“It’s a really good one.”
“I now own the biggest stake of manufacturing shares and the largest number of factories in the country. I’m worth over five hundred million dollars.”
“Oh my god.”
“Will you marry me?”
Rebecca froze.
“I’m kidding.”
Rebecca did not look relieved.
“Wait a second…were you going to say…yes?”
Rebecca looked at Ansem in the eyes. Words were lost. 

The door to Rebecca’s bedroom burst forth as they scrambled in, quickly making their way to the bed and peeling off each other’s clothes. Ansem was doing it. Living the dream he kept kindled in his heart for years. He was fulfilling his own desired destiny. This would go down as the best night of his life as he made love to Rebecca Pratt, his undeniable one true love.

New York, NY

The laboratory was now fully active, it was in procedure mode. Every available hand came in to help Samuel.  He had finished schematics of what he named, “The Tachyon Resonator.” The Tachyon Resonator is a device that turns the particles surrounding it into tachyons. On the third day of manufacturing it was finished. As it is in its prototype form it took up the majority of the laboratory. The only way they could successfully test it is if they recreated Dr. Samuel Gordon’s Chase’s original sketch of a portable amplifier ring that turns everything inside the ring into tachyons. 

When it was finished the next step was to test different items inside the room. Samuel knew what had to be done when nothing responded to the phase change inside the room, not wood, not metal, not plastic, not glass, not meat, not a fish, not a mouse, not even a chimpanzee. Where did they get the chimpanzee you ask? That was a different story… 

Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase waited until no one was looking and accessed the automated features; he turned the locks off and started the tachyon reactor. Once it was charged enough he turned on the resonator and the rays filtered into the room. Samuel ran down the walkway. When his assistants and grad students saw what he was doing they were terrified. Samuel risked all their lives opening the doors to the test room. As he slid in and closed the doors the machine finished its start-up process and the vents opened to release the Tachyon Resonator’s sonic ring of ray-waves. Samuel stood in the center of the room, the only one within the rings, and this was what he saw…

A scattered grid vibrating and getting closer, netting his vision. It came at him slowly; gradually. It opened Samuel up from the inside and connected him to the outside. He was still in the fishbowl, but could see both ends of the spectrum. And then Samuel realized it was a reflection. He was on the outside looking in. Samuel was looking at his entire life in the confines of a cube. But when his eyes got past this point it went grey. Some great schism blocked his sight. 

“Do I die?” he said on the floor as the vents cleared the room. 

Soon the doors opened and his crew came in with the paramedics. Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase was rushed to the nearest hospital. By the time his wife had gotten there he had slipped into a coma. They were doing everything they could but because of the unknown conditions of the accident they had little experience or knowledge on how to treat him. Vanessa was going to lose her husband. She demanded answers. 

When the fifth year intern told her of the experiment and his need to see and experience it for himself Vanessa became hysterical. She had always feared a day would come when his obsession would take over Samuel so completely that he endangered his own life and those around him, putting himself before his family. Now her worst fears were reality, and she was helpless in the aftermath. Vanessa prayed because that was all she could do. She prayed that the Chase family would not lose everything.

1.6.0 Everyone's Got a Secret

Jessup, MD
The next couple of weeks went by in a flash. Rebecca and Ansem spent every minute together. Rebecca looked up from the trampoline in her backyard while she held her boyfriend’s hand over her shoulder. The moon was small, a sliver crescent, but the stars were bright. It was a beautiful free night of love and happiness.
Out of all the sharing they had done, Ansem was still keeping something from Rebecca, and it was in the basement of his house. He decided that he would have to tell her eventually. And while on the trampoline, in fact, while she was looking at him like no other time before, he decided to show her.
Ansem took Rebecca to his house and down the stairs to the basement. At first she feared the worst walking down those steps. Step by step her paranoia grew. Who keeps anything good in a basement? It’s rarely a train set and most of the time a mass grave. Ansem opened the door and took her inside. Of course, she had to enter the room in darkness, like her eyes were closed. He snapped the lights on and she wanted to scream, but it ended up not being a big deal.
It was a computer desk and a lab table filled with beakers, Bunsen burners, hot plates, and a refrigerator spanning the entire length of the basement wall where he kept every chemical he’s collected and created.
 “What is all this?” Rebecca had to ask.          
“My gift to mankind. My life mission. My legacy.”            
“I don’t understand, Ansem.”            
“Rebecca, I have figured out how to cure the common cold.”            
“The sniffles…influenza…allergies…pneumonia…all treatable.”           
“It has always been there, I guess too many people would lose their jobs and money if there was no need to buy cough syrup. I’m creating a supplement…just like you take for your anxiety.”            
“Does anybody know about this?” Rebecca was still uneasy.            
“Just the two of us now…” 

Ansem sat at the lab desk. He had pulled something up from his laptop and wanted Rebecca to take a look at it. As a doctor she knew what she was looking at when it came to things like DNA coding and lab reports. It was all checking out to her. His math and logistics were fully proven; he had a complete knowledge of medicine and was treating the common cold with an array of different inhibitors and growth serums derived from inverted irregular cells. Once combined and wrapped into an antibiotic, it will attack any virus, infection, or threat to the body and keep virtually every disease away.
“Is that why you bought all the shipping companies?”
“I want this to be available to the masses. If anyone finds out about this the FDA will throw me in jail. You see…the technology and knowledge has been around for over twenty years now. The only reason I can think of as to why they haven’t produced it is because if they gave it to the public…seasonal sickness would go down 97%. Entire healthcare industries would be devastated.”
 “So why do you still want to do this?”           
“It is every person’s right to live free of sickness. I can give that to them.”          
“When do you plan to send it out?” 

Rebecca stood next to Ansem who was sitting at the desk with her body turned the other way. This was the first time there was ever any distance between the two of them since their first date. Rebecca was no longer scared of her beloved’s secret in the basement. She was not afraid at all with his plight. It was the fact that she could not see his point of view as being right that made her uneasy. She didn’t know if she agreed with this or not. Rebecca looked over Ansem’s shoulder as he fondled a test-tube in his hands at his desk in the basement.
“They are prepped to go out on the twenty-first. Four days before Christmas…”

New York, NY

It was the beginning of December when Samuel came out of his coma. He had seen many things while he was under and could not remember any of them. It felt like he had lived for hundreds of years. When Vanessa saw him awake she kissed him with wet lips from all the tears. There was little hope for Samuel, every doctor had said so. Vanessa refused to pull the plug on him. Something told her, somehow she knew that he was meant to come back and live on. This world was not finished with Samuel Gordon Chase.
“What did you see?” she asked him later at home, in bed.           
“I stepped into the oncoming grid.”
“What?” she repeated.       
“When I got in that room, before I passed out, I saw the grid. I think my consciousness was thrown into it.”            
“I don’t understand”    
“I saw my life outside of itself…as a whole… And then I weaved through it, unseen by myself. Along my journey I came upon the grey mist, and that is why I cannot remember anything now except the beginning.”           
“You sound even crazier than before, Sam” Vanessa admitted.          
“I know, honey. This all seems…well…farfetched…but in time…I promise…you will understand. You asked me what I saw…I saw the Time Collider.”
The next day Samuel did not rest. He went in to his laboratory to find that the results from his test had pushed the research and development phase into overdrive and they were able to get enough funding to manufacture the portable Tachyon Resonator Samuel had first drawn up. His actions were morally and ethically wrong, and he should have been dismissed for putting the students and staff in danger, but instead he was being rewarded for his innovation and scientific findings.
Samuel could not figure out how to combine the Time Collider with the Tachyon Resonator. It was not until he threw out the notion of achieving the speed of light altogether that he realized what had to be done. You see the Time Collider bent space and time, placing the entry and exit point together, but it could not infiltrate the intrinsic fabric of reality. For that, the doctor needed to build one more device.
Samuel slid his Time Collider blueprints over the Tachyon Resonator blueprints, and with one more piece of tracing paper covered both of them. He outlined the circle of the Tachyon Resonator and etched in the triangular mainframe of the Time Collider. In the middle of the circle and triangle he smiled and wrote down three of his most beloved words…
Quantum Wormhole Catalyst  
Always a childhood axiom of Samuel's since he was enthralled by modern American comparative mythology; he never thought he would be able to apply it to physical research and development. Everything was coming together…The Tachyon Resonator isolated the surrounding area and converted the atmosphere. The Time Collider held the fabric of the space-time continuum in rippled stasis. And, the Quantum Wormhole Catalyst created a thread from one dimensional timeline to the next.
This assembly was complicated and risky. If not done right it could open up Earth to infinite dangerous dimensions where anything was possible, including the darkest of human nightmares. To be safe, the jump would have to be made in outer space. Where there was enough room and zero gravity to achieve maximum velocity, no elemental factors could interfere with the experiment like wind resistance, and there was no danger of reemerging in the middle of a wall.
With the resonator being done already it would not take them that long to create the collider and Q.W.C. Their end of the experiment would be done before Christmas. It was the spaceship part that would have to wait for the department to find a suitable government provider. It was not long before General Saarsgard of the US Air Force caught wind of Samuel’s miraculous recovery and subsequent discoveries, and contacted him from the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. He informed Samuel of his base and what they were building inside of it.

1.7.0 The Page Is Turned

Jessup, MD 
By the middle of December Ansem and Rebecca had eloped and moved into Ansem’s house. Rebecca wanted to level both houses and build one big one on both properties, but Ansem would not let her. They would leave it like it was, so it would always be the same as when they first met and fell in love. Rebecca saw a side of him that she first admired now change to resentment. 
Christmas was on its way, Ansem and Rebecca spent many nights at the malls. They would walk through the stores and Ansem would offer to buy her anything, but Rebecca would not take the offer. She refused to be a trophy wife that gets everything she asks for. She wanted to work for her wealth, not marry into riches. Rebecca was a doctor, and even though she could retire tomorrow with the money Ansem had, she would work for as long as she could. It was her responsibility as someone who could help people that could not help themselves. 
They were decorating their Christmas tree when Ansem first sneezed. He dropped the garland as he covered his mouth and sneezed again. 
“Oh, honey,” Rebecca grabbed him, “are you getting sick?” 
It was no surprise when Ansem got really excited. He could not wait he exclaimed as he ran down to the basement, “Now I can try my supplement firsthand!”
Ansem came back up from the basement with the original bottle of pills that was brought back from the factories after being deconstructed, replicated, and reconstructed. There were sixty-six little white pills inside the bottle. He took one out and popped it in his mouth, swallowing it without water. He looked over at Rebecca who was standing uneasy behind him. 
“You take one a day for a week. The cold is gone by day two and never returns as long as you complete the regiment.”
Ansem and Rebecca continued finishing the decorations on the Christmas tree in their living room. Ansem put the angel on the tip-top and turned the lights on. The tree lit up the corner and the window perfectly. They stood before it together and held each other warmly. 
That night Ansem continued to cough and sneeze and hack up phlegm. Midway through the night he got up and ran to the bathroom. He threw up bile and blood into the toilet. Ansem flushed it without showing or telling Rebecca. He went downstairs to the kitchen to call the research reps at the manufacturing plants and ask them about side effects. They told him the same thing that was written on the bottle, “Side-effects include: nausea, fever, and fatigue.” 
They also told him it could possibly cause stroke, intestinal bleeding, and liver failure. Ansem had no idea it was so dangerous. Even though he had kept it from greedy corporation hands, it had still become twisted and processed. All humanity was sucked out of the pill. They were not honest with Ansem. The private manufacturing company he made the deal with never told him about any side-effects when they examined his formulas. But that’s just it, Ansem thought, this could not be his formula, when they reconstructed they must have replaced one of the chemicals with a cheaper product so they could pocket the dividend.     
Ansem got off the phone and threw it against the wall. It slammed the vertical flat and shattered into tiny plastic pieces all over the kitchen. He went back upstairs but collapsed on the staircase. His airy voice called out for Rebecca as he slipped his grip and slid down the stairs. Rebecca came out of the bedroom and caught her husband. Together they got him back to bed. 
The next day was no better. Ansem stayed in bed as his fever grew worse and the nausea subsided. Rebecca stayed by his side. When the time came he asked for his next pill. She was reluctant to give it to him at first. But finally, Rebecca gave in and issued his next round of supplement with plenty of water. Maybe that was the problem…and just as he suspected it was written on the bottle, ’Take with water’. Ansem fell asleep and prayed to God that he would feel better when he woke up. The road to recovery meant all his invested millions would not be in vain. 
Ansem woke up and did not feel any better. He was unaware of how much time had gone by. His body was bruised with internal bleeding and he could not move without being in extreme pain. Ansem was terrified that he might have a stroke or liver failure. He already had four out of six side-effects; getting the other two would kill him. Rebecca had no idea what to do. He never told her about the side-effects. She simply thought the supplement was not working and his cold was getting worse. 
On the third day he demanded to take another pill, even though they were convinced it was killing him. Rebecca gave her beloved the pill for a third time. By that night the fever was back and ten times worse. There was little hope that this supplement would make him better. 
On the fourth day Ansem made Rebecca promise she would let him take the full regiment of pills. Just like a vaccine you had to get worse before you got better. Maybe, just maybe, Ansem thought in his diluted state, the supplement was giving him every virus and infection it protected against all at once so it could cure him forever. It was just a matter of time.
On the fifth day Rebecca could not sleep, not only were her husband’s vitals rapidly declining before her very eyes, but their marital bed now repulsed her. Soaked in sweat and dried blood she couldn’t get him out even if she tried, he was bruised all over now from the intestinal bleeding, any sudden movement might rupture an organ at this point. Rebecca brought up some tea with his next pill, but he did not drink it. He stayed awake long enough to swallow the pill dry. 
On the sixth day Ansem lost consciousness. When she opened his eyes to check them they were green with jaundice. His liver was failing. Rebecca kept her promise though, and crushed the pill into a cup of water, dripping it down her fingers and into his mouth.
On the seventh day after she gave Ansem the final dosage of the supplement, Rebecca spent almost the entire night holding her cellphone in her hand, contemplating whether or not to call the paramedics. If she got Ansem to the hospital it might save his life, if he made it all the way there in one piece that is. But there was something else to worry about…If she did manage to get him to the hospital and they ran tests on him they would find the supplement in his blood, it would undoubtedly be traced all the way back to the shipping companies and both Ansem and Rebecca would be arrested. So those were her two choices… do nothing and let Ansem either die or, more unlikely, pull through or call for help and spend the rest of her life behind bars.  
On the eighth day Ansem Weathers died, the same day his pills were shipped out to the general public, Rebecca’s last Christmas. The room was dark and quiet, night lurking outside the window. He lay still with his arm hanging off the bed. His wife, Rebecca, at his side, head in his lifeless hand. She was crying for him. His heart had stopped beating. She could feel it. Pulse was everything. She had been constantly monitoring his, and as Ansem grew weaker, she had to concentrate more and more on finding it. 
Now it was gone, along with everything she cared about…Part of her wanted to wait there forever for him to return to her; but there was no getting around it…Ansem was gone, and as his doctor she pronounced him dead at 8:22 PM. 
A heartbeat, latent and subtle crawled through the vibrations of their defiled marital bed. She wanted to believe he was back so bad. Rebecca continued to cry into his hand, this world was small and comforting right now. As long as she didn’t have to leave his embrace, she never had to deal with his death.
Rebecca did not feel the shift on the bed. She was grief stricken and distracted. It was not until Ansem’s pulse came back that she responded. This was not just her imagination; she could feel it, cheek to palm. His heartbeat was perpetually slower but gradually getting stronger. She had to stop crying now. Rebecca got a hold of herself; she had to be reminded of who she was before Ansem’s love, a woman first and a doctor second. Wife or not, those two will never change. She opened her eyes and begged God for the chance that her husband, Ansem was not dead.
The pale green bloodshot eyes of death lured over Rebecca as she looked up at her dear Ansem. He was sitting up, dazed, like he was alive for the first time.
A moaning hunger bellowed out of him. 
His breath smelled terrible. Rebecca saw her husband, but just a shell. It terrified her. Ansem moved his hands over Rebecca’s head, combing through her dirty blonde hair to her shoulders. At first he was soft and glided gently down her arms. She resisted his cold embrace. 
“…Ansem…please…answer me….”
He dragged his dirty rotten nails down to her wrist and took a hold of her. Ansem Weathers was no more and when Rebecca looked deep into his soulless eyes she realized this, but it was too late… Screams and thrashing about… 
Fight for your life Doctor Pratt or you won’t make it through the night

1.9.0 End of Days
Cheyenne Mountain Complex, CO

It was three days after Christmas. Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase was made honorary guest and brought to the Air Force Base for the revealing of his Quantum Wormhole Catalyst. As a precaution they kept it away from Dr. Chase during its construction. His reputation preceded him. 
But Samuel was no beast, he knew the only way to do this properly would be to wait until all the pieces were in line. The Tachyon Resonator was different; he needed to know what it felt like to be in the midst of the tachyons. He must understand the course fully before he travels it. 
Since he could not make it himself, Samuel could not wait to see his designs in real life. According to the people at the base it was just as portable as the Resonator and the Time Collider, and they were all three being analyzed to fully optimize their integration with the air-space vessel they were developing specifically for this mission. 
Samuel walked around the assembly hall with the General after the presentation and met the members of the secret government sector. One of the men he met was a Lieutenant Atticus Roth, two years out of flight school and he was recruited to start the pilot program for space/time travel. General Saarsgard made sure to tell Samuel that this was going to be his first pick. 
Atticus Roth was the best pilot the military’s seen in over ten years. He can keep conscious at over 9 g’s and hasn’t had the opportunity to be tested any further by modern technology, until now… Atticus greeted the now infamous Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase who turned out to be a friendly regular guy. During the conversation General Saarsgard coughed a lot.
“You know they got a thing for that now…a supplement.” Dr. Chase suggested, “I don’t personally believe in it, but anything's worth a try these days.”
It was not late. Everyone seemed to be leaving the cocktail hour and not coming back. When Samuel caught wind of it he followed a soldier out of the assembly room. He caught up to him and found out there was a crisis happening in Washington D.C. 
The soldier led Samuel to a TV where the others were gathered. From the network news the crisis was shrouded in mystery. Thousands of people were dying from what appeared to be the super-flu or the swine-flu. Whatever it was it killed quick, fever coming over them rapidly until it was untreatable and fatal. 
Some treatments even seemed to make the fever worse. It didn’t make any sense. The news teams were blatantly confused, giving conflicting stories about the epidemic. Samuel had enough of cable news and searched around for a military broadcast channel. 
 He pushed the MP aside and brought a browser up on the computer, tapping into a Pentagon stream…all facts verified…the speakers flickered on, once the people die from the fever their corpse re-animates, repeat, fevered corpses come back to life... 
People around him gasped. Trained professionals brought to tears and turned into the petrified pedestrians hanging on every last reported word. Samuel could not believe his ears. The information continued… 
…There is no part of the reanimated dead that is still human. Just like the ghouls of ancient folklore commonly known as zombies, the undead only show two functions…walking and eating, so far field examinations have concluded there is little to no pulse and no breathing…
...There is no reason determined yet but all the dead eat is living flesh, repeat, the walking dead will try to bite you. Experts have only really concluded in one area of agreement...
...It's a scientific phenomenon... 
A break in the reporting gave Samuel a chance to think. The man broadcasting sounded desperate, as if he was trying to get all the intel out before people could begin to doubt him. Samuel listened carefully, the man on the radio wasn’t desperate…he was scared. To Samuel's dismay that conclusion proved there was no way in the world this was a government ruse.  
...The outbreak first sprang up mostly between Virginia and Maryland, our nation’s capital before thousands of cases poured in around every major city on the east coast and over to Ohio.  So far there is nothing besides this to indicate a lead to the source right now. 
They had to concentrate on containing it.

...If the virus is not stopped in the next seventy-two hours the entire country will be compromised…
There was no way to tell if it was terrorists. The contagion was not only being transferred through bites and scratches but it was in some everyday household item that people were buying in stores. 
…The bodies have to be permanently put down by severing the brain-stem and examined in order to help trace it back to patient zero…
Once they could identify a source that might lower the rate of infection. But it was too late for that. The dead were hungry and were going after the living. 
If you are bit, you are contaminated. There is no doubt. In a couple of hours the infection from the bite will kill the victim and raise them from the dead creating a hostile out of a fallen friendly...

The broadcaster might have been getting hysterical. He began repeating himself over and over again, just in different ways. After thinking about it Samuel realized it was the confirmed news he was getting that was hysterical. It was pandemonium in the streets. There was no denying what they were.
Everyone’s worst fears had finally come true. This was the zombie outbreak that would bring about the elimination of mankind, their ultimate undoing. It did not matter anymore that they were at the execution stage of Samuel’s time traveling experiment. This was the end of days. 
All venture and auxiliary programs in the military and government were immediately dissolved to focus on preemptive salvation, including 1) quarantining the epidemic before it spreads over the entire world, and 2) tracing the disease back to a source in order to stop it, better understand it, and possibly cure it.
Every prominent mind in the country would be called to help save the world. Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase would ignore his calling until the bitter end of humanity’s salvation. For Samuel could only think about one thing and one thing alone, getting back to New York City. 
Samuel did not flinch when looking straight into the heart of the festering darkness.
Nothing can stop him from saving his family.

24 Hours after Initial Outbreak 

The East Coast of America is overrun with the cannibalistic undead. 
In between the Hudson, Potomac, and Delaware rivers quarantine is broken.
Zombies are gorging on the city masses, only biting, never finishing their meals, forming an unstoppable horde set to consume the entire eastern seaboard.
Every plane is grounded, train derailed, and boat burned in a desperate attempt to contain the epidemic before it goes worldwide. The President sits safely underground in NORAD with one hand over a red phone, waiting until he has to say the four words he always feared… Initiate Project Clean Sweep

2.1.0 A Thousand Leagues from the Storm  

Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase currently resides in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. 
Unbeknownst to him, he had landed himself in the very same stronghold as the President of the United States. He was stuck in the safest place in the country, trying to get to the front-line of the outbreak.
Samuel entered the helicopter docking bay. All of the air force troops were flocking in droves to the outbreak. Samuel ran up on one of the pilots attempting to take off. “I need a helicopter back to New York!”
“Sorry doctor, all transports are currently being used to evacuate.”
“Which helicopter is going furthest east?”
“Captain Decker,” the pilot pointed him out, “is taking a team into the red zone…”
“Where is that?”
Samuel thought to himself, ‘close enough.’ He ran across the helipad and made his way over to the runways, where the pilot had pointed. He climbed aboard Decker’s ship. As he crawled through the bowels, he was grabbed around a corner.
“You’re not supposed to be here.” The man who apprehended him said.
“Let go of me, I’m a doctor, I’m part of the rescue team.”
“This isn’t a rescue mission, Doctor. This is a demolitions op.”
“The Commander and Chief is about to order the bombing of all the major cities on the east coast.”
“Is New York one of them?”
“It’s second on the list.”
Samuel was taken off the plane and escorted back to his room at the base. He tried walking outside into the hallway but the guard they had stationed by his door did not allow it. Samuel was trapped in his room without any television, radio, or the freedom of leaving. He was officially a prisoner. The thought of Vanessa, his wife, suffering the gruesome death being described on all the reports, eaten alive, and his kids becoming the living dead, walking hell on earth, terrorized his mind inside this small bunk room. And soon they might even be nuked by the friggin' president. Samuel had to get out.
The door swung open and Samuel tried to leave again. When the guard stopped him he motioned that he was going to the med-center, but they didn’t buy it.  As he was being escorted back, right before he tried hitting the guard to escape, Atticus Ross approached them, telling the guard that General Saarsgard needs to see the doctor immediately. Samuel followed Atticus out and asked him, “What does the General need me for?”
“The general is in Hartford, Connecticut on the Northern Front.”
Samuel thought to himself, this kid wanted to help him. “Can you get me out of here, Lieutenant Ross?”
“Actually it’s Captain Ross now.”
“Do you have your own-"
“…Plane? Don't worry, Doc. That's where we're headed.” Atticus led Samuel out of the barracks and into a side dock away from the main bay.
Their prototype was sitting on the dock. “Is this …it…?”
“Yes, but we do not have your devices on board. Right now it is your basic air and space craft, equipped with a full arsenal and hovering tech.”
“How fast can you get me to New York, Captain?”
“On the contrary Doc, I can only help you as much as obeying my orders can allow me to.”
“What are your orders?”
“They have received Intel of what might be the cause of all this. I have been ordered to find a woman who is involved with a shipping company.”
“That’s all they give you?”
“Right now, everyone is on a need to know basis, Doctor. I have a full description of this woman….Rebecca….Pratt…the operation objectives and the maps, but besides that…yeah…”
“How dangerous did they tell you it was?”
“It’s a solo mission.”  
“That sounds deceiving.”
“They don’t expect me to come back.”
Samuel was speechless.
“This vessel is expendable to them.”
Atticus rubbed his hand along the side of his slick plane. “War Bird” That was her name. He had spent over three thousand hours in the cockpit of the War Bird. Samuel knew the Captain’s orders were interfering with his loyalties to the mission: Saarsgard’s vision and the War Bird.
“I will help you find her.” Samuel promised Atticus.
“And whatever happens, if we come out of it alive, I will help you get to your family Doctor Chase.”
“What about your orders?”
“Doctor, we are at Def-con two.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re all nuked by day’s end.”
“That’s risky and grim, Captain.”
“It’s time to go, Doc.”
They started up the War Bird’s main lines. Atticus fueled up auxiliary fuel tanks and Samuel helped him move them into the cargo bay. “Do we have guns?”
“Do you know how to use a gun, Doctor Chase?”
“I was an eagle scout. I can fire a rifle.”
“Good. I have packed us a full armory and pantry. We may have to live in this bird for a while.”
“What of my devices?”
“They are being held by the General’s men the last time I heard. If you want to save your family we must go now and leave them behind.”
Atticus was right. They boarded and sealed the ship. Once air-locked, Samuel followed Atticus to the bridge. Atticus sat down in the pilot's seat on the left. Besides that was only one other seat to the right. 
Samuel wondered, “Is that…”
“Your seat?” Atticus inferred, “Yes. This vessel was made for you, Doctor Chase.”
 Samuel sat down next to Atticus and buckled into his seat. Two computer screens lowered from above him and keyboards unfolding from his seat’s armrests. 
“How are we supposed to transport survivors?”
“Don’t worry, Doc. There is plenty of room in the War Bird.”
Atticus launched out of the R&D dock of the Colorado Air Force complex harboring a stowaway. By the time the guard had figured out that General Saarsgard was no longer at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Samuel was already well on his way back to the East Coast. 

2.1.5 Jessup, Maryland

Atticus flew the plane low enough and slow enough for both of them to get a good look at the ground. The devastation and damage was piled on from the start. Flying over Kansas they saw the fleeting masses in cars and on foot. Kansas City was taken by the rioting gangs and the crime lords. The streets of Indianapolis were all but emptied, except for some rebel rogues…having the time of their lives before the end. The entire eastern seaboard was evacuating west or illegally flying out of the continent. 

They crossed over Ohio where people were still stuck in the valley. As they passed over the flotsam towns the outbreak was now crashing down upon them. This long wave of horde over Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina was being fueled by the magnitude of people that were not able to get out of the major cities in time. By now over ten million were dead. Most of them did not remain dead. 

The streets were filthy with stains from oil and gas explosions and pillaged stores. The blood-trail from the horde wiped the streets with the elegance of a mad painter’s brushstroke. The highways were desolate parking lots. Homes were burned down, bunkered down, or broken into. Residential America was lost in the east. As the suburban streets got more crowded, they passed over the Beltway; a network of highways circling the nation’s capital.
“We’re here.” 
“I can’t believe this is really happening.” Samuel muttered to himself while he looked out the window as they landed across the street from the house in a school parking lot. 
Suburban towns and neighborhoods as far as the eye can see, vacant of all humanity. There were brushfires and burnt-down houses all around them, all the other houses were ransacked, along with the yards, now junkyards, and the streets. Not a soul in sight, the place had sparse blood on the floor, maybe some in the grass. Samuel could theorize why…
"The amount of zombies that had to have manifested in this area, ground zero, must have licked the place clean first before moving on. How could anyone survive this?  
 Atticus safely landed the ship, and Samuel tried to exit the aircraft without Atticus.
“Wait a second, Doc” Atticus insisted, “Are you nuts, man? Goin' out there without suiting up first.”
Atticus brought Dr. Chase to the War Bird’s armory. “We have specific gear on-board for dealing with such a threat. We call it Protocol Z.”
Atticus threw Samuel a long sleeve shirt, “What’s this? Under-armor?”
“Not quite, try ripping it.”
Samuel could not rip into the fabric nor tear a seam because there were no seams. the perfect defense for you flesh against bites and scratches. There were also bulletproof vests and combat-pads for their elbows and knees. After the elastic tear-proof under-shirt, the bullet proof vest, their field jackets, pads, gloves, and boots, both of them were completely covered except for their faces. 
The side-arms were already clipped onto ammo-belts. Atticus grabbed a Desert Eagle .50 gun-belt; he also took a second DE out of another belt, sliding the gun onto the belt before clipping it together. Atticus slid both pistols behind him and began putting extra ammo on. 
Samuel grabbed a 9MM pistol. Before he began to decide which rifle to take, Atticus told him to take two pistols. Sporadically, Samuel grabbed a python revolver, before snatching an M4 rifle with an ACOG scope and suppressor attached. He slung it over his shoulder by the strap, while Atticus did the same with a shotgun. He locked and loaded a silenced P90 and approached the door. 
“Why are all the rifles and machine guns silenced?”
“Studies have shown that anything louder than a pistol could potentially attract hundreds of them.”
“The government was prepared for this…the zombie apocalypse?” Samuel was shocked.
“Ever since the first atom was split, measures have been set by the US government and military to be prepared for any scenario. It wasn’t until the days of chemical warfare and weaponized viruses when the potential for a rising dead scenario became fully realized.”
“From what you're saying, I can only derive that the government has also been trying to build such viral weapons.”
“I wouldn't be surprised if they're to blame for all this. More likely than some terrorist cell." Atticus turned to Samuel, "You ready?"
“You got enough guns?” Samuel retorted nervously.
“Can never be too safe. Now Doc, are you sure you’re ready for this?”
“It’s across the street, Captain. I think I can manage.”
“One block can be a long way when it’s crawling with creeps trying to eat you.”
“I’ve seen the news reports. I know what’s waiting for us on the other side of these doors…”
“It’s different when you’re face to face with it. It's still killing a man. Just stay with me, stay close, whatever happens…we stay together…there and back…” 
“Right…okay…I’m ready Captain, open the doors...”
Even though the ground was clear when they landed, when they emerged from the doors cries and moans could be heard not a block away, approaching them. The noises and the winds of the landing must have alerted them to their whereabouts. 
“This is it.” Atticus pushed the Doctor forward towards the street as he kept his head on a swivel, checking both sides of them and their “six” continuously. The cries were now loud enough to see the ones responsible for them. They came dragging their limbs down the street, not running but not walking. 
Samuel would always remember the first time he saw one face to face. 
It was the eyes. 
An image of two vacant pupils staring back at him that would burn into his memory forever. A woman with long blonde hair clumped together by dried blood. Covered in mostly dirt and guts both others and her own, her body was slowly deteriorating through her clothes. Soon the flesh on her elbows, toes, nose, and fingertips would be withered down to the bone. She couldn’t have been older than twenty-five. 
Her eyes were grey and her skin was so pale. From the neck down she looked normal, a girl out for a run. She might have even been beautiful before she was bit. Samuel could tell because besides her empty eyes and pale skin the only other dead give-away was the bite on her face. 
Half of her top lip was missing and the little piece left dangling off her nose was just about ready to rot away. Her bloodstained teeth showed through all the way to the gums even though she would never smile again. The dead girl moaned and drooled uncontrollably, slowly making her way towards Samuel. He could no longer bear to look at her. 
“Shoot them now so they don’t have a chance to surround us.”
“...Oh man...” The Doctor exhaled.
“SAFETIES OFF!” Atticus screamed as he began to fire his P90. 
He fired in bursts. Each burst dragged into the head of the attacking undead. Man, woman, and child came at them, screaming, trailing blood and dead flesh, trying to bite at them, trying to contaminate them, devour them. Atticus showed no mercy. Samuel still had not fired a single shot. 
He looked at the death all around him, and how Atticus had just jumped right in. This was all too much to bear. His family had to be dead. He knew New York would be just as bad as this. Atticus finished his clip and reloaded, keeping the undead all around them from getting too close. Samuel was barely able to walk. 
They slowly crossed the street towards the house. Atticus knew Samuel was in shock, he steered him straight with his hand on his shoulder, swinging his SMG across both sides of Samuel's head, firing on zombie after zombie trying to flank them, all the while yelling out, “Just cover the front door to the house!” as he pointed him to the white-shingled house ahead of them. 
The objective brought Samuel into focus and he could finally step into the moment, rather than merely viewing from the safe distance of the sky. He aimed through his ACOG scope on the M4 Carbine and kept the front door in his cross-hairs. After a few seconds of watching it through the scope, the door opened and he saw a woman trying to break out of her own barricaded house.
 Pulling plank after plank off the doorway something was driving her out to the street, and it couldn’t just be the sight of them coming to rescue her. They must be in the house. She runs through the mess, praying to God her bare ankles aren’t nipped by some undead carcass on her stoop. She fights and she fights to break free from the debris, her drive compels Samuel to act. She gets to the street and gasping for air, she crashes into Samuel and Atticus’ arms.    
Samuel grabs the hysterical woman and Atticus covers them. In the middle of the crowded zombie street, they start backpedalling to the ship in the parking lot. Samuel takes his sights off the front and turns around to get inside the ship. Atticus is still firing his P90. The ghouls have gotten in between them and the ship. They are not panicking though. 
In order to remain calm, Atticus tells himself, the mission has advanced to the next objective after search and rescue…extraction. 
Now with the woman’s safety in mind, Samuel needed to help. He fired his rifle and Atticus finished off the rounds in his P90 before switching to his duel pistols and clearing the zombies that were now approaching the ship from behind them. Atticus blew a grapefruit size hole in each one's head that tried to get close while watching his underrated partner accurately use his rifle both in aim and strategy. Samuel was a marksman.
“They just keep coming.”
“It’s impossible to hold down a front.”
“We have to get inside the ship!” 
Atticus plugs in his code on the side of the War Bird and the door to the ship pops open. Samuel pivots in with his rifle and the girl, Atticus covers them and puts down a few more before closing the door safely. He takes his equipment off and jumps into the pilot seat. “We’re getting the hell out of here!”
“I think we stirred up a hornet’s nest.”
“They’ve been here for days…” the woman whispers in Samuel’s arms on the bench. 
“Nothing we can't handle...” he says back; after getting her to smile Samuel knows she is okay, so he confirms, “Are you Rebecca Pratt?”
“Yes…yes I am, and I can tell you how this all happened...”

2.2.0 The Burden of Knowing
The War Bird took off from the parking lot, destroying a few more zombies in the fire’s emitting from the jet-engines. Atticus turned the auto-pilot on and left the pilot seat. He walked over to where Samuel was covering Rebecca with a blanket. She was in a prolonged state of shock. Rambling on and on about her husband and the undead. Samuel rubbed her back and consoled her. Her ramblings were but crazed whispers.
Samuel looked back at Atticus and asked, “What now?"
"I'll radio back to NORAD and get our new orders.”
Atticus walked by them and sat down at the communication station, putting the headphones on and moving the mic attached to it closer to his mouth.  “NORAD this is Arrow 1, we have recovered precious cargo and are awaiting orders…Over…”
Proceed to the following coordinates Arrow 1
“Are we going back to Cheyenne Mountain?”
“No…” Atticus entered the coordinates into the navigational system, “…East…”
“New York?” Samuel eagerly predicted.
“Sorry, Doc...Hartford, Connecticut.”
Atticus was now sitting back down in the cockpit changing course. Samuel was up and walking anxiously back and forth in front of a confused Rebecca. 
“Why are we going to Connecticut?”
“I don’t know,” Samuel admitted, too preoccupied with virtually flying over New York and his loved ones.
“They’re sending us into quarantine…” Atticus tried to sort it out, “This is bad…”
“Worse than where we just were?”
“This is really bad…” Atticus looked back at Rebecca, “It’s her…she’s…the key to the cure…”
Rebecca pulled the blanket tight over her shoulders and avoided Atticus’ glare. Samuel saw the blush run ramped on her face. Atticus went on, “If the cure starts with her then it makes sense that they would want us in the eye of the storm.”
Samuel was no fool, and catching onto Atticus’ line of thought, “Hartford is the infection front-line…”
Atticus finally locked eyes with Rebecca, “And you thought the worst was behind you.” Something was not right with him, Rebecca felt uneasy when he looked at her. 
“I never thought the worst was over, not even when the love of my life rose from the dead only to attack me…”
“Your husband…was he the one with you in the house?”
“Do you know what happened, why he turned into one of those…things…? How he got sick?”
“It was supposed to make him better...”
Atticus and Samuel both stopped what they were doing. She had their full attention now. Although she did not look at them, Rebecca felt it necessary to tell them what happened. For she knew where they was going Rebecca would have to repeat the story over and over again. In the hands of the government her relationship with Ansem will be dissected and stripped of all humanity, but right now, this conversation was her chance to tell it from the heart. 
“Ansem’s death would have been hard enough if it wasn’t for the supplement. He created an unlicensed antibiotic that attacked the common cold on all fronts. I checked every test personally, it all worked, not one mistake…”
“Well you should have double-checked it.” Atticus scoffed.
“If it was perfect, why didn’t he bring it to the FDA?” Samuel calmly questioned.
“Ansem was as paranoid as a conspiracy theorist, he thought they would destroy his work to save the jobs and livelihoods of all those put out on the street after the Cleanex and Nyquil industries go under…”
“That’s insanity” Samuel remarked.
Rebecca cried. The realization of just how foolish and blind she was rushed over her. But she forced herself to continue her story, “….I….I um… I helped him take the full regiment of pills even though he got worse every day. The day he died no more than five minutes went by before he came back to life…like that…”

"So that's it then...One guy's blind ambition is another man's apocalypse."
“Do you have to take the full regiment to turn?” Samuel tried to distract Rebecca from Atticus.
“I don’t think so.”
“Just one pill might be all it takes…”
“Is there anything else?”
“By the time I knew what it did…”
“Don’t. It’s not your fault,” comforted Samuel.
“You just got in bed with the harbinger of humanity’s death,” Atticus wasn't holding back.
Rebecca threw her blanket off and charged at Atticus, slapping him repeatedly in the chest and then in the face, “Ansem Weather’s was a great man!”
Samuel pulled her off of Atticus. “You said you checked his work, do you have those formulas?”
“Yes, the General told me to bring everything.”
“What general?”
“...General... Saarsgard...”

2.2.5 A Little Fun in the Apocalypse

Atticus flew over New York high in the clouds for Samuel’s benefit. The poor doctor did not need to be tortured by the sight of a rotting city. After all, Atticus promised Samuel he would take him there to find his family, and he still intended on keeping that promise.
They quickly approached the impromptu command center located in Newport, Rhode Island, 90 miles east of the Red Zone’s northern tide. This base was constructed out of the old mansions on the islands. With their back to the ocean and the old stone walls the base could not be surrounded or penetrated.
After the initial outbreak of the disease in the tri-state area, the plague quickly spread in every direction, but it especially sprang south and west. The military’s best plan of attack was to focus on weak points within the infection: one seemed to be the cold air and another was rough terrain and high altitudes. So they used the New England coast with places like Newport and Cape Cod, to launch fronts against the spreading disease. General Saarsgard was located at the frontline command center, located somewhere in Hartford.
“We’re receiving the updated coordinates now,” Atticus informed them, “They want us to follow a convoy up the road to Hartford and offer aerial cover fire.”
“Does this ship have weapons?”
“Doc, you have no idea,” Atticus laughed as he flicked an orange switch on the console, turning it red and setting a verbal alarm off that repeated, “BATTLE MODE READY” while moving Samuel’s seat forward and opening up a new weapons console in front of both of them.
Rebecca got out of her seat and stood over Samuel as he grabbed the joysticks and triggers. A radar grid came up in front of him on a 3D screen and plotted out all recognizable zombie signatures by the temped temperature of the walking dead corpses. The screen adjusted and flushed parallel with Samuel’s own perspective out of the cockpit windows. The targets locked on and a carousel of armed weaponry came online for Samuel to scroll through.
“There are so many options,” he professed.
Rebecca helped him examine them all; two doctors of war.
Atticus instructed, “Just don’t use anything that there’s only one of…like the nuke.”
Samuel and Rebecca leaned back, “…there's a nuclear missile on this thing?”
“What do you think the reactor is?”
Samuel looked up at Rebecca and together they chose something safe for starters. The frag turrets armed on both wings of the ship spun into ready position and Samuel began to fire on the targets.
The convoy traveled up the highway ramp and was on route to their Triage base at the XL Center; formerly the Hartford Civic Center, “You know,” Atticus added, “Where the Whalers used to play.” He explained as the navigational screen had the route through Hartford pulled up and the Center highlighted. The frag cannons emptied and the trigger under Samuel’s fingers clicked.
“Switch to the scatter guns.” Atticus instructed.
The convoy turned off the highway and back onto the side roads. The plotted course was a 2 hour Northwest zigzag through residential Connecticut. People were already either evacuated or dead. At the gun, Samuel found that there were only two cases illustrated outside: the first being just the one random zombie along the road, and the other being what many have come to call “The Horde”, just an endless stream of bloodthirsty flesh-eaters overcoming any obstacle that is put in their way, like a swarm of insects.
The scatter gun made quick work of the horde. Samuel felt like he was playing video games with his son, Warren; a thought that could either keep him going or have him collapse in utter despair. Picking off arms and legs, popping zombie heads, he felt detached, like it was unreal; and that was good for this instant. If Samuel had thought about all the people’s father’s and mother’s, children, and loved ones he was putting down he would not have been able to pull the trigger. Samuel Gordon Chase was always a man of compassion and empathy.
Two traits that cannot survive the new world.
Samuel was working it all out in his mind slowly. He was not quite at the point of realization that Atticus was operating on. Atticus knew these people were gone and all that remained were corpse-monsters. He would do whatever it took to survive and never become one of them, whether it meant killing the dead, killing the living, or even killing himself…
Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase was a theoretical physicist with his head in the stars; he operated on hopes and dreams. By now they had both seen enough to have the same outlook on this tragic turn of events. But Samuel’s past moral and ethical foundations motivated him to hang onto his search for meaning and answers in this godforsaken world.
Atticus turned to reason and what he could see and grasp with his dirty callused hands. Samuel had faith in the unknown; nothing can be fully proven by science or mathematics. And that is why anything is possible; you just have to find the right equation. He believed that everything happened for a reason and one day who he was and who he was meant to be would merge together and change the world forever, saving mankind. They both put a lot on their plates, not knowing that the other was already stacking against them. But in the end they would need each other to clash upon the rock and show them the tide.  
“…Arrow One, please advise, a roadblock up ahead in five miles. The convoy will not be able to go around it…”
Atticus flew five miles ahead of the convoy to the roadblock.
“Would you look at that…” Rebecca gasped at a graveyard of tractor-trailers blocking the road.
“The scatter guns won’t be able to shoot through that,” Atticus figured out loud. He leaned over and punched a button with an orange icon of a flame on it. An alarm went off until it was quickly muted by the radio coming back on.
“…Use of napalm is authorized…”
"This just keeps getting better."
“Just aim carefully, Doc” Atticus laughed at Samuel’s naivety.
Samuel pressed the trigger reluctantly, dropping quiet bombs from underneath the War Bird, sending a blanket of fire down onto the suburban streets of Connecticut. Whoa. Rebecca watched over Samuel’s shoulder as the tractor-trailers and everything around it was turned to dust. The unlucky zombies caught in the blast never saw it coming. The convoy continued on its course unblemished. Every member of the military convoy spent the past 2 hours worry-free with the War Bird watching over them from above like a guardian angel.
“We’ve made it. I can see the stadium. Now switch to incendiaries and let’s plow a runway into the parking lot.” Atticus directed Samuel at the weapons station.
Samuel rotated the armory and armed the guns with incendiary missiles. He pulled the radar back up to an aerial view and targeted the massing horde outside the stadium walls. Atticus flew ahead of the convoy and hovered around the center as Samuel launched the missiles. They scattered and swirled wildly into the air like wayward fireworks. The explosions rocked the iron walls of the stadium. The dead and the undead burned up all the same from the missiles.
“…Arrow One, you have been cleared for landing…”
“…Welcome to Fort Troy…”

2.3.0 Startling Realizations

They came into Hartford from the North, the only way into the city that was not overrun. The stadium was filled with wounded and infected civilians. Not only was it reinforced with iron barricades along the walls, doors, and windows, but mounted hollow-point machine guns and mortar turrets stationed both inside and outside of the stadium.
The military was massing at the stadium for a retake of the city. The tactical maneuver was a sweep across the coast of the Long Island Sound until the liberation of New York was possible. If that could be attained other major cities riding down the eastern seaboard might be saved. If the front could not be held now, the infection would spread to every corner of the Earth. The end of the world was rapidly approaching and the United States Armed Forces were doing everything in their power to prevent it.
They no longer fought terrorists; they burned the dead and put a bullet in the head of the undead. A soldier, by definition, had a completely different role in society now. An enemy that shot back was virtually unheard of except for the rioters. Samuel had this ideal image of all the nations of humanity coming together to fight and endure the zombie revolution. That was in no way close to their current reality. A truth Atticus would have to brace Dr. Samuel Chase slowly for. Although Atticus was younger than Samuel, he had lost his youthful hopefulness and optimism, and inherited a soldier’s apathy and cynicism while in the military, making him much older than his years. He knew what this world was coming to, and what it called for now.
Atticus started the landing process. Every soldier around the War Bird looked amazed, like it was an alien space ship. The outside of the War Bird was smooth and the engines and boosters were prepped for deep space travel. It’s no wonder why they thought that. Upon landing Atticus adjusted the auxiliary engines on the wings into hover mode and the entire ship shifted. The wings flattened and the bow and the stern contracted, as the booster engines slid under the bird, switched off, and were replaced by sonic pulse emitters pointed at the floor. 
Atticus attached the pulse emitter’s coordinates onto the landing pad and brought them in flawlessly. They landed and Atticus shut down all the fancy equipment. Dr. Chase exited the ship with Rebecca and they have a look around. There was no man standing around. The ones that were not on guard or out in the fight were building and reinforcing barriers all around, using such materials from sandbags to extra benches and tables. This was nothing they had seen before. Amongst the troops were civilian wearing armor and carrying automatic weapons, they must be taking volunteers now. This was all out war. Atticus joined them and they stepped down the walkway.
“General Saarsgard is waiting for you, Captain. Right this way.”
They were brought through the base in the middle of the stadium’s center, an impromptu fortress, made up of mostly tents; they had a better look hovering up above. It seems that the skies felt the safest in this terrible world now. Atticus led them into the room and saluted the general, Samuel and Rebecca followed suit. The General sat them down at the conference table and began. 
“Rebecca, I’m glad that you are safe, but in a couple of minutes the CIA and FBI are going to come through those doors and arrest you, followed by interrogation, and then most likely they will take you away to a laboratory and conduct experiments on you all in search for a cure.”
“Is this a scare tactic, Saarsgard?” Samuel demanded to know.
“I’m afraid not, Doctor.”
“I never took the pills. If it’s a test subject you need, I kept my husband alive and trapped inside my house.”
The General, Dr. Chase, and Atticus all looked shocked to hear it.
“You mean to tell me that patient zero is still attainable?”
“Yes, sir.”
“It seems as though Ansem’s death might be the cause and cure of all this,” Samuel pointed out.
“…Ansem’s Death….”
General Saarsgard walked out of the command center.
“What was that about?” Rebecca asked Atticus.
“Well, Doctor Pratt, the military has a niche for codenames, and I think our General just found the perfect one for this epidemic thanks to Samuel.”
Outside, General Saarsgard addressed the FBI and CIA agents and all forces not busy at the front were immediately assigned to the task of retrieving Ansem Weathers. The General walked back in.   
“Do we need to get her out of here, General?” Atticus asked.
“For the time being, no… They are distracted…you’ll be safe.”
“If there’s nothing else you need from us then, General. I would like to request Captain Atticus take me to my family.”
“I’m sorry Doctor but there are no personal escorts. NORAD won't admit it, but that vessel is one of our strongest weapons, so…essential to this operation that I have been awaiting its arrival to commence. Now that it is here, you are asking me if you can take it away again? I am sorry, Doctor Chase. Not while we still have it in one piece…Not while there is still a front to fight.”
Samuel slammed the table and walked out of the room. He was outraged, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was in Hartford, Connecticut…What was that…four…five hours away from the city? He had to find a car. Samuel began putting a plan together in his head as he wandered down the hallway, unaware of where he was going. 
Back in the command center, Saarsgard began to give the strike codes to his lieutenants. He issued Captain Atticus Ross his orders in the Rising Front Op. He was to blaze a path down Interstate 95 and firebomb every major city along the way…
“…along the way……to….”
And that’s when he saw the orders, written on a government piece of paper, that which Saarsgard just withheld from Samuel. Atticus looked back up and pulled the general aside.
“Sir…you told him…”
“I told him what he needed to here to stay alive. New York is lost…His family is dead…It’s a suicide mission…”
“Is that you’re call, sir?”
“Yes it is.”
“On whose authority?”
“Are you questioning my authority, Captain?”
“No sir, just pointing out that Doctor Chase is a civilian…sir…”
“…A civilian employed by the United States government and asking for military resources.”
“Yes, sir.”
“As you were, Captain.”
Atticus left the command center to try and catch up with Samuel. Rebecca watched Atticus stand up for Samuel and all her suspicions and bad feelings about him disappeared. Beneath his rough exterior he was a good man, and she knew what good men do. Rebecca followed Atticus out of the room, "This is bullshit," Atticus vented, knowing Rebecca was behind him. His soldier's reserve beginning to erode away. "That asshole is going to get us all killed."
"What are going to do?" Rebecca got next to him.
"Find Doctor Chase."
“Atticus,” Samuel dropped his bag, “What are you doing here?”
“He wants to help you,” Rebecca answered for him.
“Wait a second,” Atticus’ wheels’ turned, “Were you gonna steal the War Bird, Doc?”
“I was looking for the best ride to New York,” Samuel tried his charm.
“Well I can’t blame you for coming to the right place…” Atticus smiled. 
"What about the op? What about the fight?"
"I got news for you, doc..." Atticus told his story walking into the War Bird, "I've been trained to look at every scenario from a bird's-eye perspective and this whole clusterfuck reeks, I'm talkin' a success rate of zero."
Rebecca gasped. 
"Clusterfuck?" Samuel laughed, "Is that a military term, like...FUBAR?"
"Might as well be...It's time we start looking out for our own asses, starting with your family, doc."
Samuel didn't argue, but Rebecca felt the voice of reason, "You're going AWOL, and we're betraying our country."
"It's not about that anymore. Times are changing, sweetheart. America is dead and gone. And this might be the only chance we get to save our lives. I mean they've got infected people inside the base for Christ's sake! It's just a matter of time before-"
Suddenly a shake within the foundation of the stadium erupted and an alarm sounded off. Screams down the hall and gunfire scared Samuel and Rebecca into the ship after Atticus, who was already starting the take off procedures when the General radioed in, “…Captain, come in Captain, Operation Rising Front has been compromised, they have infiltrated the sanctuary, prepare for extraction…”

2.4.0 Project Clean Sweep

 The War Bird flew into the air leaving Saarsgard in Hartford. The horde had swallowed the stadium up whole. There was no front; there could never be a front. As much as the government wanted there to be, this wasn’t a war, it was an apocalypse. The stadium was a coliseum in the wasteland, the last structure standing. But just like the Roman Empire, the stadium fell.

 Waiting for Atticus was the military’s fatal flaw, General Saarsgard put all his eggs into one basket and lost everything when the plague devoured the base from the inside-out before they could mount an offensive. If it wasn’t for Atticus disobeying direct orders Samuel and Rebecca would be dead along with everyone else. Now they floated in the air while the ground underneath them rotted and the skies above contained the deadliest weapons known to man.    

Atticus switched over from hover-mode to get to New York as fast as possible.
“How do you know where you’re going?”
“Look at the map on my orders, I-95 goes all the way down to Florida and hits practically every major city on the east coast along the way.” Atticus explained, “I’m just following the highway.”
“…Arrow One please land at the next airstrip…”
Atticus looked back, “We’re in trouble.”
…You have not yet been issued orders in Project Cleansweep…”
What the hell is Project Cleansweep!?” yelled Samuel.
 “But that’s just a story they tell in boot camp,” Atticus rambled, “it can’t be…”
“Captain…” Rebecca came up next to him and put her hand on his shoulder, “What’s wrong?”
“They’re going to drop nuclear bombs on all the major east coast cities… I’m sorry, Sam…”
“Can we get there in time?” Rebecca remained ignorant.
“It’s too late.”
“We have to try!”
Atticus was scared. He did not want to show it, but he knew it would not be long until the bombs went off. Death surrounded them from every angle. Survival looked bleak. He pulled away and tried to land the ship.
“What are you doing?”
“We’re not going to survive the blast if we’re flying.”
“We can’t stop now!”
“The nukes are going off any second!”
“WE STILL HAVE TO TRY!” Samuel jumped on Atticus and punched him in the face, grabbing a hold of the controls and steering back on course. Atticus kicked Samuel’s legs out from underneath him and they wrestled on the floor while the navigation system went wild and the ship spun out of control.
“STOP IT!” Rebecca yelled at the top of her lungs as she held onto her seatbelt. Atticus pulled himself free from Samuel and got back in the pilot seat. Samuel took out his gun and went to pistol-whip Atticus in the back of the head when Atticus caught Samuel’s arm and twisted it, disarming him.
Samuel threw his head into Atticus’ forehead and knocked him onto the floor. A blast went off rocking the ship. Rebecca cried. The radar shorted-out. Atticus read the navigation charts, “That was Boston…”
Samuel kept flying the ship south; they were above the Long Island Sound now, rapidly approaching Manhattan. Atticus pulled his gun from his holster, took the safety off, and cocked the barrel, pointing it at Samuel. “I’m only going to say this once,” as he spat blood out of his mouth from his dripping forehead, “Get up or I’ll shoot you.”
Samuel put his hands in the air and got up from the cockpit. He backed away and Atticus did not harm him. Instead he restrained him and cuffed him to the table where he had thrown down his orders. There Samuel saw the names of things he had almost forgotten; it was the final phase of Project Clean Sweep, a last failsafe. Samuel kept reading, “After retrieving the three devices equip them to the ship and collect a hand-picked team for expedition. First recruit: founder and creator of the devices theoretical physicist Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase and his family.”

Samuel could not keep reading after that. He crumbled up the paper and threw it away. Atticus knew one last thing that Samuel had not seen on the objective list, the location of the three pieces.
“So where are they?” Samuel caught on quickly.
“Where do you think they kept them?”
“Somewhere close…”
“Somewhere close indeed,” Atticus frowned as he put the ship on an auto-piloted landing course and released Samuel from the handcuffs, "They're back at Hartford with Saarsgard."

"That was our last hope..."                        
Another blast rocked the ship out of auto-pilot, this time a light blew a hole in the atmosphere in front of them over the island of Manhattan. Atticus jumped back into the cockpit and had no other choice but to pull up. In one last desperate attempt to save their lives, Atticus tried to fly the War Bird into space. He changed course and blasted all his engines to maximum capacity. The ship was buckling and cracking, the pressure was rising. Samuel got Rebecca back in her seat safely and got his seatbelt on before the wave from the blast him them.
Combined with the pressure of Atticus’ drastic evasive maneuvers, the hull could not take it and cracked. The air pressure went through the roof and the controls spun out as the electromagnetic pulse emitted from the radioactive blast shut everything in the ship down except for emergency systems including life support. The ship went into its final tailspin for the ground.  
In the air they plummeted… towards a melting earth. Samuel stared at Rebecca as the world came crashing down around them. They were held tight by their seats on both sides of the ship, holding on for dear life. Atticus clenched his steering console as the ship tore apart all around him. The wires cracked and sparks snapped through the walls at them. The pipes broke and oil leaked causing fires, as the mushroom cloud outside the cracking windows drew ever closer and consciousness evaded Samuel, scorched reality had final swallowed him up.
He tried to hold on for dear life. He tried to hold on for his dear wife, for his family. He wanted to survive. Samuel had to survive. He could save humanity. If given the chance Samuel Gordon Chase could bring the light back to all mankind.
The sun was never seen again the same way in the east. After five nuclear warheads go off, how could it?  In one fell swoop south 200 years of country and capital was destroyed…the foundations of liberty and justice gone forever. And this was just a cannibalistic contingency for the end, a desperate attempt to sweep the slate clean, for many feared but only a few knew what was to come... 

2.5.0 Children of the Atom

The ringing is what brought him back. He forgot he had ears up until then. Like when you’re about to fall asleep and something wakes you up, everything comes rushing back. He could feel the scrapes and cuts all over his body, and the warm concrete on his cheek. Atticus opened his eyes and saw the mushroom cloud out in the distant south. It looked like downtown Manhattan; he wasn’t even in the city.

Atticus got to his feet. He was in a neighborhood, a plain American suburban nightmare. Housewives with their faces falling off came rushing at him. Atticus went for his gun, but his holster was empty. Despite his pounding headache, Atticus made himself run away. He turned the corner and the coast was clear for the time being.
 He continued running up the street, when behind him zombies collided at the crossroads. He was making too much noise. A horde was brewing, if Atticus didn’t lose them, he would not be able to safely barricade himself in time for fallout. And the clock was ticking; he had about five more minutes left to get inside. He stood under a traffic light and looked down both roads. One way led to a train station, and the other way led up a hill.
Atticus wanted to go to the train station. His instinct told him the train station. But something stopped him; something lied to him under the guise of needing to find his crashed ship. Atticus surveyed the sky around him for smoke. He could not make out the difference between smoke from the burning wreckage of his War Bird and the rotten grey clouds accumulating up above from the burning city. Atticus had to get inside. As he was looking up the hill at the crest before the grey sky, a boy with long blond hair peeking out of his baseball cap was waving and yelling out to him. Atticus ran closer, “OVER HERE!” he was saying, “THIS WAY!”
Atticus ran back up the street to get to the top of the hill when the approaching zombies cut him off. He turned down an adjacent alleyway. It could have been a bum in an ordinary day, but today it went for his flesh. Atticus fell back with his hands on the zombie's shoulders, keeping it out of biting range. He kicked it off him and swiped a busted pipe from under a dumpster. Atticus plunged the pipe into the zombie's gut. It was not fazed. Atticus kicked the pipe through and through, tossing the undead bum to the floor. The noise from Atticus bashing the brains of the bum in with the pipe attracted the rest of the horde down the alleyway. To the Captain's avail he hopped a fence ending the alleyway. Once he jumped enough fences, ditching the undead, he caught up with the kid at the top of the hill
“Hey kid! Where are we going!?” 
The kid did not answer but brought him to a man who was waiting behind the wheel of a pick-up truck.
“We’re going to a shelter…a bomb shelter…it’s my Dad’s”
“Simon that’s enough!” yelled the guy as they got into the truck.
“Wait, I have friends…”
“We’ve got her too,” The boy smiled as he showed Atticus a girl who was already in the back of the pick-up truck. Atticus had a look for himself, and the kid was right…it was Rebecca. Once he grabbed her hand she opened her eyes. “Atticus!”
“It’s okay…rest…”
“Where’s Samuel?”
“I don’t know. But we have to go; it might be our only chance at surviving.” Atticus put the blanket on her tighter and turned around. He tapped on the window and slid it open, “PICK UP THE PACE, WE GOT ABOUT TWO MINUTES TIL FALLOUT RADIATION!”
The truck took the corner on two wheels and Atticus compensated with a lean; standing strong and checking all the streets they passed for Dr. Chase. “Maybe Samuel has the guns too…”
“I have the guns.” Rebecca said casually.
“You…what?” Atticus turned around.
“I grabbed both guns while you were fighting and tucked them down my pants so you wouldn’t find them.” She explained, “When you strapped me in I thought I was going to get blown in half.” She took the blanket off and pulled her shirt up. The cold steel pressed upon her boney hips. Atticus pulled his Desert Eagle out of her waistband, cocked, and loaded it. Rebecca was not expecting that. When he tucked the gun into the middle of his waistband instead of his holster, he said, “You can hold onto the Doctor’s until he gets back,” and then covered the gun with his tan dirt-torn army-issued undershirt.
They arrived at the abandoned building. It looked like an apartment building. The boy and what turned out to be his uncle led them down the walkway and stairs to the basement shelter. Sure enough, there was the yellow and black fallout stencil spray painted on the wall. When they got to the lead-metal door it was closed, but visibly unlocked. The uncle tried to push it in when an alarm went off.
“GOD DAMMIT ED!” yelled a guy from inside.
“Sorry Clark,” the uncle apologized to his brother.
The door opened and Simon brought Atticus and Rebecca in to meet everyone.
“Luther’s gonna be pissed…”
“This is my Uncle Ed and my Uncle Clark,” Simon proceeded, “Guys this is Captain Atticus Ross and Doctor Rebecca Pratt.” Simon bowed and ran inside. Rebecca must have told them their names, pretty quick for a kid who couldn’t have been older than eight or nine.
“Ed, what are you doing? Luther won’t let more in.”
“He said it himself, the place can hold up to thirty people, we’re not even twenty…this is a doctor and a soldier…”
“It doesn’t matter now, come on!” Clark led Ed along with Atticus and Rebecca farther in.
Simon was hugging his father. He was a tall, stout-chested man with short blonde hair who intimidated his brothers and family merely with his presence. His name was Luther and he was king and ruler of his family as the oldest brother and owner of the bomb shelter. Once he was told about Atticus and Rebecca he greeted them with open arms.
“There is still one more!” Rebecca shouted at him in a dire rebound of subtly.
“We still have loved ones out there as well.”
“So you will wait before you seal the door?”
“The door can always be unlocked if need be,” Luther reassured them, “But in…one minute and twenty-seven seconds…I will close it permanently.”
“OR ELSE WE COULD ALL BE CONTAMINATED AND DIE!” His temper trampled anything else and everyone else in the room.
Atticus took Rebecca away, avoiding confrontation, as they met the other people in the shelter. There was Clark’s wife Brook, and their twenty year old daughter Nora. There was also their family friend Walter who was waiting for his father and son. He was pacing back and forth as Brook tried to calm him, “They should have been here by now…That crazy bastard is going to seal the doors on them…I just know it…”
“No he isn’t,” Brook reassured him, “They’ll be okay. They’ll make it in time.”
Walter settled down when he saw Atticus and Rebecca, something about them made him gather his frantic anxieties. He cooled off and met everyone along with Brook and the rest of the kids. The final seconds Luther counted down for everyone to hear. Walter pushed his fingers through his hair as he watched Luther seal the door after zero. His family was still nowhere to be found. Everyone’s cellphones were dead after the blast, along with almost everything else electronic.
Through the window of the door, Walter could see the dust from the tires rising. The clouds were all around them and dropping quickly, soaked in gamma radiation, toxic to human flesh. The car crashed through the apartment building, into the walls, as they jumped out and ran down to the door.
“It’s Frank and Wheeler!”
Walter was devastated… What were the odds?
“They have Mr. Summers and Walter’s boy!”
“And some other guy with glasses!” Clark yelled out from the door.
“That has to be him!” Rebecca grabbed Atticus’ arm. He didn’t want to crush her hopes so he smiled. But he also didn’t want her to get her hopes up. Atticus knew what kind of guy Luther was, he was the kind that never goes back on his word, and would do anything to keep his son safe, including letting other people die. He was not opening that door for anyone. Walter got in his face immediately; it took Clark and Ed to hold them back. Luther got free and punched Walter across the face, lifting him up off the floor, and throwing him back down on his ass.
Clark and Ed both went at Luther for resorting to violence so quickly. While Walter jumped up and unlocked the door. After that, everyone knew Luther would kill Walter. Even Atticus joined in to restrain Luther as Walter opened the door and let them in. The old man and the boy rushed by, hugging Walter. Frank and Wheeler carried the guy with the glasses in and the three brothers closed and sealed the door. Luther grabbed Simon and ran into the shower room to scrub themselves clean of fallout radiation. As he ran away he yelled, “YOU JUST KILLED US!” YOU JUST KILLED US ALL!”
Frank and Wheeler carried the guy past Rebecca and she cried out in joy. It was Dr. Chase. Samuel in the flesh, he had a gushing blow to the head and was unconscious but he seemed to be okay other than that. Atticus ran over and examined him, “Was he awake at all?”
“When we first found him…”
“…Crazy bastard wouldn’t let go of his seat…” Wheeler grinned.
“He was still in his seat?” Rebecca never would have thought.
“Looked like some sort of alien space ship if you ask me…” Frank theorized.
Rebecca shook her head up and down and pretended she had no idea what he was talking about. She looked over at Atticus who was wrapping Samuel’s head and covertly smiling. For the time being Atticus was relieved to see Samuel alive, but he knew the shelter would not escape fallout, nuclear or otherwise.

2.5.2 Sanctuary Mutiny 

A dead civilization walked the city cinder, but not Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase. Fate had another plan for him. It took a couple of days to go by before Samuel got better. In that time Rebecca examined everyone in the sick bay. 

The bomb shelter was very extensive. It had an octagonal shape and five off-shoots on every other side. Including the entrance, there was also the kitchen, the lavatories, the sickbay, and the barracks. Within the kitchen there were fully stocked dry, frozen, and refrigerated pantries, and a dining room. Within the lavatories there was a washroom and the boiler room, including all the generators, circuit breakers, and an active well with a water filtration system and iron cast coating to keep all radiation out. This was a perfect way to outlive the apocalypse. 

That much Luther knew. 

Luther was not some psycho from Jersey; he was the oldest brother and member of the family. He had to watch out for them. When fate offered him a way out in the form of a dying man giving away all his earthly possessions including a multi-billion dollar fallout shelter, Luther knew it was up to him to keep his family safe. Now the only thing keeping them in danger were the strangers amongst them and that door being unsealed and re-opened. Luther let it happen once; he would never let it happen again. 

The sickbay was nothing more than a hospital ward; a room with six beds, although the last two beds were X-Ray and MRI machines. So Samuel was in the room when she examined each person. Although the curtains were up, and she told them all he was still unconscious, Rebecca muttered certain confusing medical jargon out loud for him to hear. 

Atticus was in and out of the sick bay almost every hour, as if he was reporting to Samuel. Rebecca was no fool. She looked at his heartbeat readings and knew what was happening. Now they were all in cahoots. Something about this elusiveness made Rebecca worry, worry about what would happen if the brothers or Luther caught on. They were planning an escape, nothing more. But the gun they first noticed on Atticus was about to become an issue inside the shelter.
Clark’s wife had convinced Clark and Ed to get Luther to do something. Ed seemed to be the most compassionate of the brothers, and the most easily persuaded. Atticus spent his time indirectly observing their behavior. Identifying and classifying their strengths and weaknesses. Ed was an ideal target to reason with to try and get out, him and Walter…the family friend…already at odds with Luther because of the door once, and a black eye to remember it. Atticus kept Walter and Ed close. The boy, Simon, frequented the sickbay often to check on his new friends.
Both Ed and Rebecca were in the sickbay on the sixth day when Samuel opened his eyes and regained consciousness publicly. Samuel got up with a change of clothes by the bed. Ed was baffled, “You should be a bit wobbly…”
“I’m a fast healer. Now, Ed, my friend, we need to go, and we need you to help us.” Samuel said as he put his jacket on. Just then, Simon came into the room to check on Samuel and Rebecca when he saw Samuel awake. He jumped for joy and ran around screaming at the top of his lungs, “HE’S AWAKE! HE’S AWAKE!”
Samuel sighed and shook his head at Atticus. Rebecca knew it, they had planned this whole thing out…Samuel waiting for the right moment to wake, showing him the change of clothes, these were no coincidences.  As they left the sickbay after Simon, all the adults were gathered together anyways, on their way to confront Atticus.
“It is good to see you awake Doctor, but we’re going to have to ask Captain Atticus to hand over his weapon,’ Luther demanded.
“If it’s all the same with you we would like to be on our way,” Samuel rebutted.
“Nobody goes in or out.”
“Until when…exactly?”
“Until the radiation is gone.”
“The radiation is gone.”
“No it’s still in the winds.”
“The effects of a nuclear explosion aren’t rendered inert for thousands of years,”  Samuel informed everyone.
“If that’s what it takes…” Luther finally admitted.
“Wait a second…” the family began to put it together, “You were going to keep us down here forever?”
“You wanted us to live in a basement for the rest of our lives?”
“Down here we’re safe. Down here we have a chance to survive, a chance to die with dignity and not turn into one of those things!”
Rebecca had to tell them now, and this seemed like a perfect time to do so, “You’re not safe down here. You let fallout particles in after the door was re-opened, I’m sorry Walter, but your father and son have been contaminated with too much radiation…”
Walter, who had barely said a word, finally spoke up, “What?… Are you telling me they’re going to die? What about the Doctor? He was with them too.”
“If we don’t get help,” Rebecca added, “We could all die.” Even though she knew there was little hope for them. Atticus was proud of her, using deception as a tool for survival.
Walter turned back to Luther and the brothers, and begged, “Please, we have to let them out!”
Frank and Wheeler were just two punk kids caught in a family dispute, they had no side. Clark and Ed looked back and forth at Luther and Walter as they argued with each other, and things became heated again. Clark and Ed were twins and always friends with Walter growing up. Luther, who was eight years older than all of them, never got along with Walter. Clark and Ed did not know what to do. Both sides were right. They had no way of deciding and were hoping it would get decided for them…
Walter pushed Atticus away and grabbed the gun from his belt. He pointed it at Luther and threatened him, “Open the door or I put a bullet in your head.” Luther laughed at him. Walter’s hand was shaking so much the gun rattled. Everyone knew he wouldn’t do it. Then Walter pulled a wild move, pointing the gun at Simon, “If my son dies, your son dies…”
The women screamed and Samuel took his gun back from Rebecca and threw it to Atticus who pointed it at Walter. Luther started to slowly walk forward, getting in between Walter and Simon. “Listen Walt, you don’t want to do this. We are safe. Just put down the gun.”
“MY KID’S GONNA DIE BECAUSE YOU’RE AN ARROGANT PRICK!” Walter pointed the gun back at Luther. “Let… me… through...”
Luther stopped walking and stood in front of Walter, Atticus, Samuel, and Rebecca. He stood between them and the door. Brook took the kids away, including Simon. And Atticus pointed his gun at Luther. “Let us through, Luther.”
“I do that…and we all die…”
“That’s not gonna happen...” Samuel tried to reassure him.
They inched forward and Luther stood before the barrel of Walter’s gun. Luther took a step forward and pressed his forehead against the tip of the barrel. “If you want to get out, you’re going to have to get past my dead body.” Walter stood still. He was at an armistice. He could not kill in cold blood. Not even to save the rest of his dying family. He began to cry and let his grip on the gun loose.
Luther patted Walter’s back and took the gun from him. It was a comforting sight to see. He then quickly shot Atticus in the chest and Walter in the head. Everyone screamed as the ringing of the shots echoed through the underground shelter. Samuel fell to the ground and grabbed his gun back from a still-lying Atticus. He shot at Luther catching him in the arm and throwing him off his feet. Rebecca kicked the gun away as Luther squirmed on the floor next to Walter’s dead body.
Atticus gasped for air and tore his shirt open. The bullet shell dropped from being wedged in the bullet-proof vest. He got up and took his gun from Samuel. In a uncontrollable rage Atticus saw the worst of man and swore to himself to take a stand against it, “YOU KILLED AN INNOCENT MAN!” he screamed in Luther’s face while he held him up by his thin blond hair. Atticus put the barrel of the gun in his mouth and broke his teeth. Rebecca finished helping Samuel up and tried to stop Atticus before he executed Luther. But it was too late; Atticus pulled the trigger and blew the top of Luther’s head off.
This gunshot was muffled by Luther’s head. All that could be heard were the men and women crying. Atticus unlocked the door and Samuel pulled Rebecca up from trying to salvage the carnage. “We have to go!” he moved her out.
“WAIT!” yelled Ed, “We’re coming with you!” Ed, along with Frank and Wheeler wanted to get out of the shelter as well.  
“What?” Clark said on the bludgeoned floor.
“We have to go, Clark.”
“I’m staying here with my family. It’s what Luther would have wanted.”
“I’m coming too,” Nora ran over past her father.
Clark acted as though a knife went through his heart, “Nora…no…”
“I’m Sorry, Dad. But I’m only twenty. I can’t spend the rest of my life in this steel trap.”
“I’ll look after her, Clark.”
The brothers parted ways and Ed, Nora, Frank, and Wheeler left with Atticus, Samuel, and Rebecca. The door was sealed behind them, never to be opened again. Once they wrapped bandannas around their mouths and left the apartment building, Frank and Wheeler led them back to the Warbird’s crash site.

2.5.3 Fallout & Walkabout

The sky spun back together into a dark spool, "Did anybody else see that?" before unraveling again.  He remembered it like it was yesterday but he knew this hadn't happened yet. Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase wandered the frozen dark alone.

Or was he just losing his mind?

Samuel was somewhere else the entire ride, when a hiccup of awareness threw him back into reality. It was not until then that he had a look around... and a grave look it was.

What a nightmare everything had become. The faded fray of civilization, haunted and hollowed out homes, ghosts of families, neighbors and strangers all gone, dead or worse... The fallout had a strange effect on the undead, turning them from rabid dogs to the meandering dead and rendering them twice as harmful. Anyone could outrun them but if just one touched you chances are... you’re dead.

Only Atticus and Samuel had guns. This was not what Atticus had in mind when he wondered about the future still piloting safely above the apocalypse in his War Bird, which was also not what Atticus anticipated when they arrived at the wreck.
The entire hull was broken in half, fractured apart and stacked together next to each other. Everything inside the ship was in pieces except for the center console and Samuel’s seat. Atticus had no idea how they survived. Like a detective searching for clues he uncovered an assault rifle, threw it over to Ed and uncovered the center console. Ed examined the assault rifle. It was cracked down the magazine and only had one bullet inside of it. Ed threw the rifle away; it was garbage.
“What is that?” Rebecca asked as Atticus pulled something out.
“You know how every plane has a black box…”
Atticus got up and looked around; there was nothing they could do. Nobody left to report to, no safe ship to fly over the wretched earth, they were finally on their own. He threw the War Bird's black box on the floor.

The first thing they needed to do was start gathering supplies, and prevent themselves from being eaten or caught in the fallout winds. Other than that, Atticus knew they would need an arbitrary reason to keep going, so for now it continued to be getting to Samuel’s house.

“Doctor, let's go find your family.”
“Right, can you take us, Ed?”
“Where are they?”
“Uptown, near the park, off Madison…” Samuel kept forgetting he wasn’t in the city, “You know…in Manhattan…”
“Yeah, I know, hop in.”
“Are you sure you-”   
“Central Park North, right?” Ed said unflatteringly.
“Exactly.” Samuel’s old colors as a detached professor shined for a brief second, glossing over Ed’s contempt and proceeding none-the-wiser, “Atticus!” Samuel yelled from the truck, but when he turned around Atticus was not getting in the truck with them.  “We got a ride!”
“We got one too.” Atticus was already over next to a black mustang under the hood with Frank and Wheeler. He looked back as Wheeler started the car after Atticus hotwired the engine.
Samuel and Rebecca rode in the pick-up with Ed and Nora; and Atticus, Frank, and Wheeler were in the mustang. They moved slowly around all the parked cars, some were empty, some were tombs if they didn’t cruise at a slow enough speed it would cause too much of a stir and the local horde could gather and trap them in.
This was not an easy feat, Atticus was the only one who could navigate and maneuver against the wreckage. And there was some serious wreckage. Entire stores and gas stations, super markets and skyscrapers torn down against the road, against the chaos and the odds, only one was able to guide them.  Just because the War Bird was grounded didn’t mean he couldn’t travel in style anymore. The black mustang led the convoy towards Central Park. Even though Ed knew how to get there and it was Samuel’s home, Atticus was still leading them.
They got well enough through the shattered highways and city streets outside of Manhattan. Until they hit the east side Samuel had no idea where they were; a blasted grey landscape. He couldn’t find anything familiar; his landmarks were either demolished or buried in the ruin. Tight turns wrapping up clustered city parkways made things difficult to maneuver. Atticus was carving a perfect path out of the wreck, never having to turn around, never having to double back or stop…
Samuel knew it, this bridge was too small to be anything else; it was the 3rd Avenue Bridge…and they were almost there. Samuel turned around in his seat, “Only about ten more blocks!” but when they were slowed down almost to a halt around a stubborn Prius sticking out of a coffee shop the doors were opened on Ed, Nora, and Samuel as three hooded guys attacked them inside the truck.

Ed and Samuel were punched in the face repeatedly and Nora was accosted, by the time they found Rebecca and before Nora was forced to do something she'd never be able to come back from the black mustang rolled up on them. Atticus lowered the window with his gun sticking out. He pulled the e-break and whipped the car around so he was face to face with the rioters. They exchanged rounds as most of the hooded hostiles were aiming at the gas tank. Meanwhile only one remained after Atticus picked off both his wing-men and was now hunting the last man on foot.

Frank and Wheeler joined Atticus when he returned from disposal and soon enough the other group, for the cars were packed so tightly together and abandoned there was only one option... Completing the rest of the trip on foot.

"Those guys were assholes."

“Where are all of the zombies?” Nora tried to get her mind off of the attack.

"Are we really using that word now?"
“Whatever we're calling them, the nuclear blast must have driven them out of the city. If it wasn’t for the fallout radiation…Manhattan would probably be the safest place in the world right now.” Ed gave his explanation as he wrapped his wound, tightly stopping the bleeding.
They crossed another street and turned the corner all crouched over and moving gently through the debris. Rebecca followed Samuel with Atticus behind her, Nora behind him, Ed behind her, and Frank and Wheeler bringing up the rear. They got to the other side of the corner and the uptown skyscraper was fractured off its base above them. Its grind echoed through the glass city walls, its whines and moans like a great oak tree.
“We have to run…” Atticus warned them, “We have to run…NOW!”
The fractured skyscraper succumbs to the pressure and finishes cracking through horizontally. The structure slides off the slanted angle; its edge comes barreling towards them. It collides with the row of parked cars running parallel with them as they escape to the park. Just at the corner of Central Park is a circle, beyond that circle is Samuel’s townhouse. He was finally home. Samuel abandoned the group and made a dead sprint for his door. Rebecca screamed and Atticus ran after him.
She screamed as the door opened itself. Atticus had a flash back to Maryland. He stopped running and tried to swallow the lump in his throat, and was caught off-guard by the sight of it. The door opened and there was something standing in the shadow of the house. Samuel went right in and the door slammed shut behind him. Atticus was shaken back to reality as he ran for the door. He saw Ed and Rebecca’s faces and looked behind them. The stone-titan Geronimo…Rebecca’s scream…the slamming door… what could only be next but groans and moans from the subway station entrance...

The zombies still had Manhattan.

2.5.4 The Home of Dr. Samuel Gordon Chase

They rose from deep under the corner of the park, inside the railway graveyard. The fallout city cross-section now stood more crowded than ever between Atticus and Samuel's door. He took out his gun and utility knife and tried to finish the objective. The first contact was a clear shot in the head with the knife. The tango dropped stone-dead, back to being a corpse. 

Atticus used the knife to trip the next one while two more walkers closed in on him. He knew if they were radiated he was dead, but it looked like these specific zombies avoided the nuclear blast in the subway stations. Atticus made a mental note of this experience, there are now two different kinds of zombies... nukes and walkers; and kept running, bashing in the door after Samuel. 

There were no signs of blood or struggle. Atticus gave the rest of them the okay to follow him in. Rebecca ran through the threshold of the doorway followed by Ed, Nora, Frank, and Wheeler, before Atticus closed it and locked it on the uprising subway station horde. Atticus checked the front windows; they were already barricaded by wooden planks, dinner tables, broken chairs and desks.
“Ed, Rebecca, go find Samuel. Frank and Nora make sure there are no other ways in that are open or unlocked.”
“What about me?” Wheeler asked.
“Stay here with me and lean on the door while I find something to push in front of it.” 
They all ran throughout the house and did the jobs Atticus provided for them. The kitchen was empty and practically untouched with the exception of the refrigerator pushed in front of the backdoor. Rebecca walked through the kitchen and into the living room as Ed searched upstairs. Atticus braced the front doors with everything he could find and move with Wheeler in front of the door. Frank and Nora came down the stairs and into the front hall, and they reported back to him that the rest of the house was clear. Atticus knew Samuel had to be in the living room or kitchen with Rebecca.
After running into the house Samuel chased the man straight through to the living room. A dog was barking and the room was torn to shreds from the inside out. Atticus joined everyone in the living room and could not find a way to convey his condolences for Samuel. Everything else in the house was clean. The living room was painted in blood and the dog just would not stop barking.
“Samuel…I’m sorry…” the dog-owner said.
Samuel dropped down to his knees beside the bodies. “What…no...." he cried, "...no....not them....Why...why wasn't I....aw god...I...What happened?”
Samuel appeared to know the man, and he was getting ready to tell Samuel everything, no matter how horrible it could be, “I tried, man. I really tried to get them to leave with me. I was packing my car when I heard the screams... When I ran outside people everywhere were getting evacuating…I knew what it was when I opened the doors. I had been watching the news. I was able to put it together, man...reports of cannibalism...hospital fires...homeless getting shot multiple times in the chest and still on their feet. I also knew you were away, Samuel. ….I had to…I should have forced myself to…I...I...”

“Corey!” Samuel shook his neighbor by the shoulders, “What happened?”
“I was too late. Your daughters…were…eating…” Corey could not bring himself to say the rest, but he knew he had to for Samuel’s sake, “…your wife-”

Samuel collapsed next to the bodies. All good will, hope, optimistic resolve that he had maintained during all of this burnt up inside him while he lie between the ashes of his family. Samuel wanted to join the lost, something that would never change. Now he was a member of those who everyone they knew were either infected or dead. That is when a thought sparked the genesis of Samuel's salvation. He looked around, searching for something as if...

Tossing and turning in the gross pile had Samuel covered in infected blood and dead flesh. Rebecca could not take it anymore. Quietly everyone watched Samuel in his grief. After the dog stopped barking it did not seem to matter. Now people mixed with random strangers witnessed Samuel in the most intimate and raw of human emotion; losing your mind after losing your family. She grabbed Samuel in his grief and forcibly pulled him away. "Wait!" he scrambled. 

"There's no evidence of Warren...and Corey didn't say anything about-"

“Christ..." Corey incredulously retreated, not ready to handle the burden, "you don’t know...”
“…Know what…” Samuel sighed with a slight cry. 

Samuel knew, somewhere deep down Samuel knew his boy was just like him, and would stop at nothing to get him back to save the family…
“You’re boy went looking for you weeks ago…somewhere called the Cheyenne Mountain Complex…”
Samuel stood up and wiped the tears away. He looked around at everyone. Strangers standing in the red remains of his former life, his girls dead at his feet, his boy out lost in the wastelands; and all Samuel could think was…’what a mirror world this had become.’ This could not be real. He could never be comfortable accepting that. He thought of the three devices that he had created and wanted them to be more than just movie-quality props, he wanted them to be the key to saving humanity and his family from this abysmal end.

He wanted to go back in time and save his family.
Samuel remembered when he first started taking time travel seriously. He wrote down one rule that he repeatedly acknowledged as unbreakable during his research and development. That rule was you can never meddle with your life in the past. This was a well-known ancient time-traveling proverb common in science fiction. This was the first time Samuel was ever tempted to break that rule. He had to go back. He had to make all of this right, but how? 

That was impossible right now. Samuel could only do one thing. One more function before his life resembled the rest of this wasted world. He must find his son. If he did not have that, along with the rest of the group, he would be just as dead as the city around him.
Everyone was in the kitchen except for Corey and Rebecca who were putting blankets over the bodies. Rebecca got up and walked over to Samuel; she waited for a second, not sure what to do and then she hugged him.

“I’m so sorry, Samuel…”
Corey stood up and took his baseball cap off as Samuel walked by him and into the kitchen. There Atticus had a map of the city out on the counter as everyone was helping themselves to the leftover food and drinks. “God bless Gatorade,” Frank gasped as he took another gulp.
“We can look for the boy here in New York…Hopefully he didn’t make it far enough before he turned back.”
Samuel listened in as he approached.
“How do you know he turned back?”
“If his boy was worried enough to go out there and get you, then I’m bettin’ once he finds out the bomb has dropped on New York he’ll be back for his mother and his sisters.”
“There’s no alternative. If they proceed with the rest of Project Clean Sweep that means the Ohio Valley is next…Either he's close or...” Ed trailed off, avoiding Samuel's stare.
“He only left a couple of days ago…” Corey said now in the kitchen along with Rebecca.
“He has to still be in New York!” Nora exclaimed.
“New York or New Jersey,” Ed corrected her.
“Sam,” Frank asked, “you got a picture of him for us to see?”
“Listen…I appreciate what you’re all doing…but-”

Something had changed inside of Samuel, and for him the grief of the living room scene was still all too new to just pretend nothing had happened. So he called them off...
“I don’t need anybody risking their lives for the possibility that my son is still alive. If I do ever find him…it won’t be because we were looking for him. You all need to worry about surviving and getting out of the city alive before the winds turn.”

"What are you saying, Samuel?"

"I'm staying."

"You can't stay here." Atticus told him off, "Those barricades won't hold with the hornet's nest we stirred up out there."

"I can't leave and risk not being here if Warren comes back."

"You just said-" Atticus was cut off before arguing any further. 

"We can't talk him out of it, Atticus" ...we have to go on without him."

Samuel wanted to thank Rebecca for being so understanding but she walked away from him, broken-hearted that he was basically giving up.
“What are we going to do?” Nora begged the group.
“North, West, or South for starters…”
“We also need to know how we’re leaving the city…bridge or tunnel…”
“There’s no way I’m going in a tunnel.”
“I agree with, Nora.” Wheeler admitted.
“I say we just concentrate on gathering supplies and getting to Jersey, we can decide North, West, or South along the way…”
“And as for the way out, we’re just about the same distance away from the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel; I say we take the George Washington Bridge…” Ed suggested.
“…If it’s still in one piece.”
“Atticus is right,” Rebecca mediated, “The tunnel has a better chance of surviving the nuclear blast.”
“Not necessarily,” Corey spoke up from the corner of the room, officially inserting himself into the group, “The Bridge was farther from the blast than the tunnel, like us. I hid in the basement for four days in a concrete closet and survived. I’m sure you all have a similar story.”
“If you can survive in a closet, I’m sure a city tunnel will be okay.”
“And all the zombies trapped inside of it?” Atticus had the final word.
The matter was settled after that. They would go to the George Washington Bridge, “…and if we can’t cross it we’ll try the tunnel…” Atticus compromised and they all agreed. Samuel told them to take whatever they needed. Unfortunately, the water was off, but the fresh clothes and food were a nice accommodation. 
“If you guys need, there are some knives in the kitchen and bats in the closet for weapons.”
Samuel and Atticus still had their pistols. Atticus also had his tactical knife from his utility belt. Ed and Frank both grabbed eight inch chef knives, and Wheeler grabbed a butcher’s knife.
“What are you going to do with that, asshole?” Frank made fun of Wheeler, “It’s square, its got no tip.”
“Gonna chop some fuckin’ heads off, son!” 
Atticus took the knife out of Wheeler’s hand and gave him a baseball bat. Frank, Ed, and Nora all laughed at Wheeler making a fool out of himself. Once everyone was refreshed, resupplied, and properly armed, they decided to leave. Samuel took them to the garage where his Lincoln SUV was sitting there, as clean as the day Samuel bought it, with a full tank of gas. It must have been off during the nuke. They all piled in the car. Samuel stood in the garage while Atticus got in the drivers seat and Rebecca and Nora shared the passenger seat. Ed, Frank, and Wheeler all squeezed in the middle bench as Corey sat in the back with his American bulldog.
“Are you okay back there, Corey?” Samuel made sure before closing the hatch on him.
“I’m good!” Corey gave him a thumbs-up, "I just wish you would come with us, man.."
"You know I can't. Not after what I've already missed."

Atticus clicked the door-opener and Samuel closed the door and locked it from the inside. Atticus put it in reverse and backed out of the driveway. They were on their way to the George Washington Bridge. They had to soldier on without Samuel. 

They traveled north up the Henry Hudson Parkway. Out of all the streets in the city, the Henry Hudson was the least jam-packed full of cars. Everybody wondered why… Nothing could stop them now; nothing except one sight, one empty landscape out in the distance sweeping the state border with the Hudson River. The George Washington Bridge was gone. All that was left were two ruined high-beams stabbing the riverbed and poking out of the water bent and burnt. 
Atticus threw the car into reverse and turned around on the parkway. They were going ahead with Plan B, the Lincoln Tunnel. Atticus dodged the cars at a quicker pace, like he was trying to make up for the time they had lost. This was going to be they’re most dangerous task yet. “It’s too close to ground zero…”
“It’s a tunnel, we can make it…”
“We have no other choice.”
“We can always go north, or even back out the way we came…The Third Avenue bridge, back to the shelter even…” Ed yelled.
“We should go up through Yonkers and cross the Hudson higher up…”
Atticus didn’t know which way to go now.
“What are we going to do!?”  

As much as Atticus had always thought he would make the perfect leader, as much as he wanted to resent Samuel for everyone looking to him in times of need, now was the precise moment that he felt inept, and took back any harsh feelings ever dealt towards Samuel. Atticus did not want the responsibility of making people's decisions for them. In case he was ever wrong, he would not be able to handle the blame of losing people or failing to survive. He was comfortable being the leader's adviser. Atticus headed back the same way they came for a shot at the Lincoln Tunnel, but Atticus had ulterior motives in mind.

The sun was setting. The house was getting dark. Samuel sat in the living room, alone with only the company of haunted memories and the bitter dead. He could only blame himself for their fate. If they hadn't have waited for him and left with Corey, Samuel's girls would still be alive. There was no avoiding it.  Samuel killed his family. 

Now the only things that can bring them back are what caused his abandonment in the first place. 

And there was Warren...

The claws from the outside, slow-cooked bone prodding through rotten flesh against the splintering oak door. The barricades were breaking. Samuel was running out of time.  

2.5.5 Necessary Means

Next to it all, Samuel would never regret their decision. A long time from now he might even be thankful. But for now his fate seemed imminent. The walls were coming down all around him, and Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase couldn't care any less.

The undead were relentless, barely effective until time wore on, and the horde eroded the outside of the house with their rotten hands and broken limbs. The window and door barricades were giving in, as the rest of the house fell apart. Samuel was in the eye of an endless storm.

His favorite recliner throned him between his lost girls' grave, holding a fire ax and his gun in the dark. The last of the wood planks keeping the window together gave way and were quickly devoured by the hungry hands. Next the soulless heads poured through the window. As the first three walkers came at Samuel he heard the front door break behind him.

 He needed to weigh the odds and apply the rules of nature to their current predicament. One article remains above all else, survive by any and all necessary means. Through every one of Atticus' calculations the constant was always Samuel. His words echoed in Atticus' head. Find out which way the Fallout Winds blew and go the opposite. North, East, West, South, it did not matter. The winds could travel hundreds of miles over a day, track them down, get under their skin, and rot their flesh. Atticus only had one feeling left. So he said it with the up-most conviction…

“We’re going back....to the Lincoln Tunnel," he finally decided, “It’s our safest bet.”

He drove the car down the tight city streets, and there was central park. The woods seemed safe, still clean from all the destruction and bloodshed. Rebecca was pulled towards it when she saw someone walking through the trees. He had long hair and what looked like a camouflage jacket on. The important thing to realize was she saw a man. It wasn’t a zombie. 

“Over there!” Rebecca pointed.

With Atticus distracted a flaming car came barreling down his blindside of the street crashing right into their SUV. The fortune of chaos riding as a passenger of the flaming car was flung into their car. She was on fire, screaming passionately as she scraped at them. She was one of the undead. Still awake, still squirming with the flesh burning off her skin. Everyone in the SUV was stuck as it remained pinned on its side. Corey and Jackson were gone... flung from the back, out the window. There was no sign of them.
The cut on Ed’s arm reopened as he pulled Nora out of the flaming zombie girl’s way when he slipped and twisted his ankle. He crawled and slid her out of the car along with Atticus getting Rebecca safely out as well. Frank helped himself out. “What about Wheeler?”
Dumbass never wore his seatbelt…” Frank shook his head.
Atticus checked the car; Wheeler was stuck in the windowsill, the glass of the window imbedded through his torso, cutting him in half. Nora could not look at the mess, while Rebecca had no problem examining the corpse. 
"What are you looking for?"

"Signs of re-animation..." She admitted reluctantly.

"But he wasn't bit," Ed gave his two-cents. 

"I know." Rebecca then tried to catch everyone up in a single sentence, "If Wheeler rises from the dead that means its beyond airborne or even infection, it would be something undiagnosable."

Everyone stared at Wheeler waiting for him to turn, even Nora, who had been stirred from her naive fears after Rebecca's rousing words. When nothing happened the group  walked to the circle over by Samuel’s townhouse. Atticus made sure to check his door, or what remained of it. 

"No" Atticus heard Rebecca cry out as he already was pursuing the imminent remains of Samuel Gordon Chase's estate. The zombies were still knocking and scraping at it. They caught the whiff of the survivors and started to stumble down the stoop and onto the circle.
“GO! GO! GO!”
“Into the park! Go!” Atticus yelled for the rest of them, "but try not to fire your guns unless it is absolutely necessary! The sound of the gunshot would just attract more!" 

Nora helped Ed with his twisted ankle and Frank wielded Wheeler’s bat, which was now broken and sharp at the tip like a giant wooden stake. They ran into the woods, moving out of sight from the small pack of zombies.
Meanwhile Atticus put his army knife through another unsuspecting zombie, breaking a hole in the townhouse breach. The living room looked like a battle ground. Atticus could barely make out where the remains of Samuel's family were in the mounds. He climbed through and prayed nothing reached for his arms or bite his ankles. Once through he called out for Samuel. 


 From the kitchen dark Samuel attacked Atticus with his ax. Atticus blocked the strike and pushed him away, into the light. Samuel was not dead, he was covered in blood, and delirious, but not dead. Atticus approached him passively and quickly, but more importantly calmly, disarmed him. 

"It's okay, Doctor, we're here, we're back..." Atticus holstered both their weapons and carried the ax with his arm holding Samuel up by his shoulders. 

“WE'RE HERE!” Atticus yelled, not far behind the group. 

"...." Samuel rubbed the back of his neck, now on his feet and walking by himself.

Rebecca could not be more relieved, "You're alive!"

She tried hugging him again before hearing Samuel say, "You should have left me."

 Rebecca stopped in her tracks. "What?"

"It doesn't matter anymore..." Atticus looked around.

But Rebecca had to talk some sense into him, "Samuel...if you would have stayed there, you would have died, it's overrun, your son will never go back inside. Your best chance to find him might not be looking for him, but it damn well is staying alive!"

Rebecca had finally gotten Samuel's attention, along with his eye-contact, "Now c'mon, we need you like before..."

Samuel looked around as he waited for Atticus to report back from his sweep, "It's clear for now..."

"Where are Corey and Jackson?"

"We lost them when a car crashed into us."

"We also totaled your SUV," Atticus laughed uncontrollably at the audacity of this wretched world.

Samuel wanted to laugh but knew it would be of disrespect to his lost neighbor. A man who did everything he could for Samuel's family, and was there when Samuel wasn't to do what had to be done. So he caught his breath along with everyone else while he tried accessing the same part of his brain that was keeping them alive before, "....We can go to The Central Park Zoo, it isn't far from here...There will be houses and cages" he suggested to Atticus.

"That'll do for now, let's move."

 Samuel felt better, he didn't want to, but it was true. Everything from now on would be bitter and wrong at the expense of his family. Samuel's heart aged in purity, conjuring up a cynical side never shown before. Atticus and Samuel led everyone through the treeline to a small clearing.

"We should hide in here!”  The first thing they all noticed were the animals' cages.
“Why are they all open?”
“Open and empty…”

The zombies came through the woods in force, now twice as many as there were on the stoop. The horde must have picked up more in the park. Atticus brought them through to the other side of the Zoo but there were zombies covering that entrance too. They were surrounded. He looked back. 

Samuel jumped up and over into one, Ed lifted Rebecca up and over so Samuel would catch her. Next was Nora. She got over safely as Frank locked himself alone in a separate cage. It was surrounded by zombies but he was safe and it gave Ed and Atticus a couple more seconds. Atticus tried to give Ed a foot up but his ankle gave out and finally broke completely.

 Ed screamed and the zombies heard his colorful agony, turning their sights on him and Atticus. Atticus jumped up himself and climbed up the metal cage. Ed looked back as he tried not to fall over, the pain was searing. Nora was screaming for him. The zombies were only paces away.
Samuel and Atticus leaned over the top of the cage and grabbed Ed by the shoulders, lifting him swiftly up to safety. The zombies surrounded them but could not climb the cage. So Samuel and Atticus stayed sitting on top guarding the opened door. Frank’s cage on the other hand was clear of zombies but he had closed the door, locking without a key. He could not escape unless someone let him out. Hopefully, someone would know how…

2.5.6 Some Things You Can Never Take Back


 She tried to slow her breathing and let her back glide gently down the tree. Eventually her hands met the ground and she began dragging her palms along the roots and grass, but her fumbled glasses were not within reach. She would have to step out from the tree to find them.

Quinn could hear them coming. "please…. oh please.....please oh God…”she whisper-panicked.
 Her glasses were crushed by a lifeless foot. 
It moaned and dropped on top of Quinn. She screamed and attracted the others. The zombie grabbed at her arms and she kicked and squirmed, keeping its bite away. It took a hold of her wrist and would not let go. The other zombies circled and she stopped screaming. Quinn knew this was it. Everything happened so quickly. She could never escape it, now there was no denying it.
The zombie gnarled and drooled blood on top of her as she shook her head furiously to get loose. Her long hair kept it from getting in her eyes or mouth, but its hand kept grinding her wrist. Before it was able to break Quinn’s skin it was sliced from the rest of the zombie’s body, followed by its head. Only after did she see that the rest were already brought down by arrows to the head. Quinn looked around. There was a figure standing before her with a red hooded zipper sweatshirt on and a black bandanna holding an ax. He helped her up.
“Who are you!?” Quinn was baffled.           
“I’m Chambers Khan.”
“Thank you for saving me.”    
“You're the first living person I've seen in almost three days..”   
“I'm Amy…Amy Quinn...” 
“We need to keep moving now, Amy, before more come-”  
“Call me Quinn.”
“Let’s go”
They could hear someone talking. Quinn ran towards it as Chambers picked up her broken glasses and chased after her. They came upon a guy just sitting under a tree. Quinn got down next to him.
“Be careful, legs. He could be…one of them…” Chambers warned her.
“He’s not…They don’t hold letters in their hands,” Quinn reasoned "And I don't appreciate the nickname..."
Chambers laughed and Quinn asked the man sitting under the tree, “Can you move? Are you okay, sir? Can you get up?”
Chambers was preoccupied wrapping athletic tape around the broken latch and reattaching the lens on her glasses. They continued to talk below him. “I lost them all…My wife…my kids…my parents…all in the blast…Not my brother though, he’s in Florida.”
“How do you know he’s even alive?” Chambers asked, now interested.
“He’s in a maximum security prison and it's my brother, Job will survive on this earth until its just him and the cockroaches.”
Chambers eyes lit up. Quinn looked over at Chambers and back down at Marcus, before establishing, “We’re getting out of this city then?”
He finished fixing Quinn’s glasses and gave them back to her, “You bet your sweet nerdy ass.”
Quinn laughed uncomfortably at his audacity, not knowing whether or not to be offended. She put the glasses on and thanked him. “Whoa,” she said as Chambers face came into clarity. He looked about sixty years old and had long, shoulder-length, thin, dirty blonde hair pulled back from his head by the black bandanna. He had a harness on the back of his red hooded-sweatshirt with an ax, a bow, and a quiver filled with arrows, and his pants were camouflaged.
Marcus, the hysterical man sitting by the tree was quite handsome when Quinn got a look at him. Strong jaw, short brown hair, thin beard, deep dark eyes, Quinn knew who she was sticking close to. Chambers threw him the ax and took out his bow while he armed it with an arrow. He did not pull the arrow back but walked ahead of them with it armed. They crossed the woods and before they got to the edge they came across the zoo; where zombies were surrounding the cages…
...Cages filled with…people…
Rebecca yelled at the top of her lungs. It was the guy she saw from before! He was the one with the long hair and camouflage. Chambers and Marcus ran around to the other cages. Quinn followed Marcus to where Frank was locked in the cage. They tried to get him out quietly, but the zombies could probably still smell their sweat and heard their breathing if they got any closer, so they stayed away from the other cage.
Chambers put two down with arrows, garnering the remaining few's attention. He fired two more arrows and put two more holes in the zombie’s heads before stepping out from the tree-line. He kept shooting arrows and pulled their numbers from the cage. He strategically dropped the bodies so they wouldn’t pile on top of each other and snap his arrows. 
Samuel and Atticus shot just a couple bullets each conserving their ammo and making as little noise as possible, letting these two random strangers fight off the rest of them. Marcus came rushing at the last three with the fire ax. He sliced the first zombies head off, cut the other through the jaw, lopping off its head, and came down with his finishing stroke on the third zombie, splitting its skull in half.
The final zombies were taken down by Chambers as Quinn helped Samuel, Atticus, Rebecca, Nora, and Uncle Ed out of the cage. In the other cage, Frank was beginning to panic. What happens next only he already knew the outcome to. Another pack of zombies came down on top of them from the trees. Chambers locked his bow back into his harness and pulled out a machete. He stuck the first walker through the head, pulled it out clean, and chopped the next one’s head off by the neck.
Quinn let Rebecca and Nora go before her as Chambers gave his war cry and sliced a zombie approaching the girls in the head. It fell weird and landed on top of him. He was knocked back into an intruding zombie. Chambers readjusted and pulled the machete out of the dead head, thrusting it under the chin and through the brain of the zombie.
They both fell on top of Chambers. He survived, neither bit nor scratched. Chambers exhaled. He grabbed the machete and pushed the zombie off. When he did there was another one standing over him on the pile. Chambers could not pull his machete free in time. It got down on top of him. It didn’t jump at him like a predator or claw like a monster but unenthusiastically got down like a defeated bum and grabbed his head, pinning it to the floor.
“HOLY SHIT!” he screamed, “HELP ME!”
The zombie lowered its head down and moaned, gurgling blood out of its mouth. The blood spilled down into Chamber’s right eye. He squirmed and got his arms free to grab the gun on his hip. A shot fired out. It blew the zombie off of Chambers, and let him free. Atticus and Samuel surrounded Chambers. He got to his knees and began freaking out, “I need a knife! I NEED A CLEAN KNIFE!”
Atticus popped out his tactical blade and tossed it to Chambers. Chambers poured some whiskey on the blade, took a deep breath, and looked up at Amy Quinn one last time. He plunged the knife into his right eye, twisted it, and pulled the eyeball out…all without screaming. Chambers exhaled and passed out. The knife fell to the ground and the eyeball bounced free from the blade for everyone to see. Careless In the Fires


The necrotic streets claimed a certain hell-on-earth effect that could not be ignored, not even when distracted by the finest of human luxuries. He woke up in the bed of an expensive hotel room. Chambers felt the bandage covering his head and Rebecca hovering above him. He was not himself. Not once did he comment on his proximity to her chest. He merely asked her what had happened and Rebecca began to fill him in. 

The group of survivors were holding up in the Plaza Hotel after they fled the park. She tried telling him he had a mental break, “...We collected your arrows.” But what he told her made much more sense. He informed her of the blood spilling out of the zombie’s mouth and into his eye. How he could not let it infect him...and so on...and so forth...
Rebecca blushed and looked down, like she was embarrassed or ashamed. Something was wrong. Chambers no longer felt safe. He looked around and both his eyes moved. He ripped the bandages off and felt around. “No….no…no…no…” Chambers frantically twitched. "...no...no...this can't be happening..."
“Mr. Khan you should-”
“GET ME A FUCKING MIRROR DAMNIT!” he sadistically demanded. 
Rebecca handed a vanity mirror to him. He looked at his face without the bandages on. It was back. The eye was clearly dead and yet it moved in his head. However he could not see out of it and didn't have a fever. Some things cannot be explained right away... By-god... it was moving. They put it back in his head because they thought he was crazy; now his life could be at risk. He would not tell them, even if he grew sick he would just put their lives in the same unnecessary danger they just put him in.
Rebecca left the room to go tell Samuel and Atticus about Chambers, “If he gets a fever… that’s the only way to know for sure that he has it.”   
“Then it’s agreed. We go on like nothing’s wrong, Rebecca, you keep a constant eye over his condition. Notify either me or Atticus when it becomes a problem.”
“You won’t have to notify me,” Atticus protested, “And for the record I don’t agree with this. But I have a feeling that we’re going to have this argument many times to come…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Samuel could feel the growing resentment in Captain Atticus Ross’ voice.
“It means we do things your way this time…”
Samuel shook his head in phony agreement and considered the matter settled. They got him ready to get back outside.
 “Time to go!”
 They ran down the stairs of the hotel and out the back through the café kitchen. “It’s about twenty blocks. If we move steadily and stay close we can get there in less than an hour.” Atticus instructed, “Is everybody ready?”
Chambers took his head band off. He readjusted it and put it back on over his dead eye. He finished equipping himself and followed everyone out of the hotel. They ran through the alleyways, behind Atticus and Samuel. Chambers brought up the rear. Ed’s ankle was feeling a little better, and unfortunately they had to leave Frank behind in the cage… They left food and a knife. There was nothing else they could do. There were no keys to be found.  And as long as he was in the cage he was safe… 
Nora and Rebecca were kept in the middle and Marcus carried Chamber’s fire ax. Corey and his dog were still missing. Chambers kept looking back. He kept checking the way behind them for anymore stragglers or approaching zombies.
It was hard getting used to seeing out of one eye, but it felt better to know he could still move the other one. Deep down, beneath all the fear and contempt for the people who put that dreadful thing back in his eye socket after the pain and anguish of having to rip it out, deep down there was hope that he might someday get his sight back. But would that come at a price? He knew it wouldn’t always be this unnoticeable, not having an eye; this hope in…the bliss of ignorance…would keep him going. 
Chambers felt like a pirate. Before he was mimicking a survivalist, now it was time to change it up. First thing on the list was looting an eye-patch. Even before that there was making sure that there were no signs of him being infected. His favorite role, above everything else, was being human. He followed the group as they snuck across 8th Avenue. “Not far now!” 
“We need to avoid Times Square and the bus terminal just to be safe.” Samuel suggested.
“Good call.” 
They successfully got around the sleeping hordes and there the city broke, revealing the epicenter of the explosion. It was still scorching and wretched, leaking gases into the atmosphere. Everything was falling apart around it and dying. The sleeping horde in Times Square was just reanimated flesh too radiated to stand, a mound of crumbled corpses and mangled debris. The zombies were falling apart and their flesh was burning into the air. The most epic scene you can lay eyes on and simultaneously hope to never see in person.
“Wait a second…If the zombies can be dosed with nuclear radiation than what could be said about the antithesis?”
 "Stop trying to sound smart, Uncle Ed!" Nora embarrassed him.
“Ask Sam, he’s a theoretical physicist…”
“Is that right?” everyone moaned in approval.
“It holds up to the basic laws…and I'm not gonna lie, I've thought about it before... I mean it makes sense…” Samuel admitted. “Every action has an equal and opposing reaction. But I don't know anything about the virus to be sure, or if its even a virus to begin with...”
“So what are we saying?” Chambers wanted to clarify his theory.
“The nuclear explosion might cause the virus to go airborne…”
“Good God!” Quinn reacted uncontrollably. 

“Keep it down.” Atticus warned them.         
“This is it then," Marcus deduced, "This is the end of the world."
“No, no that can’t be. God won’t let that happen.” Nora deflected.
“I don’t think God got anything to do with this rock anymore, sweetheart” Chambers winked at Nora.
“That must be why Europe or China didn’t nuke us to begin with…” Ed pointed out.
“We gotta get into that tunnel and away from the cities for good!” Atticus tried yelling over to Samuel and the rest of the group.
“What do you know?” They asked him.
Atticus plain looked guilty.
So Samuel answered for him, “It’s called Project Clean Sweep. They didn’t just nuke New York, but Boston, Philly, Baltimore, and D.C. too.”
Everyone began to squirm and freak out on the street even more. “We gotta keep it together, people…we’re almost there.” Atticus warned them again as they crossed the street that led under the rest of the streets, down to the tunnel.
“That’s not all.”          
“Sam…don’t…” Even Rebecca was beginning to break, revealing their inner circle.
But Samuel persisted, making it clear he wanted everyone to be on the same page, “If the government isn’t stopped they’re going to nuke wave after wave of cities.” 
"Aw god."
“This is a disaster.”
“We’re here.”
They all crawled past the endless rows of parked and wrecked cars leading into the tunnel. Several lanes of roads coming together to dig through the earth, under the Hudson River. 3 stagnant, isolated, cement-smooth veins carved through New York City's underbelly by the endless hours of human effort and ingenuity. Now, in the light of a new age...It was the most terrifying pass imaginable.

"I'm not going in..." Quinn exclaimed.  
“Jesus, it gets dark in there.”
“We’re gonna need flashlights.”

“Well it’s about friggin' time!” yelled a voice over by the entrance.
There was Corey, Samuel’s neighbor in the baseball cap and his dog, Jackson waiting for them by the entrance to the tunnel. He was sitting on the roof of a red old cadillac with bruises and cuts all over his face and holding a CVS bag. They all greeted him and introduced him to Marcus, Quinn, and Chambers, the newest members of their group. Upon introducing Marcus, Samuel informed Corey and the rest of the group as to where they would be going once they reached the other side of the tunnel. “We’re gonna head south for Florida, his brother is stuck in a prison down there. It’s just I-95 all the way down once we get to Jersey-”
“You mean if we get to Jersey…Especially with no lights.”
“Oh... we got lights…”
Corey held up the CVS bag. He had swiped all of the supplies he could find from the drug stores between here and the crash, including near the bus terminal and Times Square, after he landed on his face over a block away from everyone else. He could not find them when he got back, and made a run for the tunnel, the only place he knew he would definitely see them again; and he was right. Corey handed out flashlights and candy bars to everyone. He whistled and Jackson, the American bulldog, ran ahead into the tunnel.
“Jackson will be our scout."

"So…Door number one, door number two, or door number three?” Don't Ever Ask Me to Do That Again

"I should've stayed at the bomb shelter."

"Don't worry, Nora... We're going to get through this. No matter what this miserable life has to throw at us...we're still here, still alive...we defy the odds. We alone are the survivors..." Ed might as well have been talking to the group, not just his niece, in his attempted reassurance. 

Except everyone knew what was waiting for them inside the Lincoln Tunnel. The winds had a hard time getting through the skyscrapers, keeping the fallout particles at bay making the tunnel a perfect habitat for anything not completely dead.  None of them wanted to make the first step when Corey unwittingly led them into the center tunnel. 

He was much more ready for this than the rest of the group. He had been sitting at the entrance for most of the day, checking out the area and gathering a good idea of the danger. By now he was convinced that they would be safe inside the tunnel. 
“No nest of zombies waiting for us down here!” he jokingly announced.
“Why would you even say that?” Nora said offensively.
Samuel actually thought he saw Atticus stifle a laugh. Even though it was dark, Samuel would always swear he saw a smile on his face in the remnants of his flashlight. Atticus led the group with Corey and Jackson who kept making loops ahead of them and back. Atticus held his pistol out with the flashlight in his other extended arm. He wrapped his hands together and used his flashlight arm to hold his gun-hand steady, and vice versa.   
They walked almost hand in hand it was so dark and terrifying. The only thing that was comforting was the silence. As long as there were no footsteps or moaning they were in the clear. The zombies were cold, dumb creatures, returned from the dead only to satisfy basic functions and urges like eating and killing. They knew not grace and subtlety, so especially in the dark tunnel they would be clanking into things and causing some sort of commotion.
“How long is this tunnel?” Nora asked her Uncle Ed, having never been down here before.
“It’s eight thousand feet.” Samuel told them, “That’s about…twenty-five…twenty six…football fields long…”
“And how far in do you think we are?” everyone kept visiting Samuel's library of offhanded knowledge.
“I’d say we’re at about football field ten.”

"Is there anything you don't know, Doctor Chase?'

Before Samuel could speak, Ed answered for him "I'm sure the kind Doctor would give anything to know how this all started, like the rest of us..."

 Atticus and Samuel both watched Rebecca's posture slide down and her head sink. Atticus told them to keep it down. He thought he heard something up ahead. Jackson, the dog, was already back from his latest round so it wasn’t him. The swipe of something, an echo of a step, it was moving; and it sounded like it was moving towards them. 

Corey made a small whistle and Jackson ran ahead with him and Atticus. Samuel guarded the girls along with Ed and Marcus while Chambers watched the rear. Atticus had his tactical knife back, and he was lucky he did. Not only would the ring of a gunshot be almost deafening, it might bring the zombies down on top of them with no way out.

Instead when Jackson came back he was whimpering and curling up around Corey’s legs, and that’s how they knew there was something wicked ahead of them. Atticus put his gun away and took out his knife to hold along with his flashlight. Corey still had a kitchen knife, but was now a safe distance behind Atticus who so quickly realized...
It was going to be him. 

It was always going to be him. 

Atticus knew that now. He was the one who would always be out in front, like the soldiers on the front line, just like it would always be with Samuel calling the shots. Atticus took another step forward, too scared to make a sound. But then again, he gave up that right back in the SUV. 

And that’s when Atticus remembered why he did that in the first place, why he went back for Sam. He remembered feeling a certain awakening, thinking to himself, ‘If there was a point to all of this...it was through the fate of Doctor Samuel Gordon Chase, not some pilot soldier’ 

Now in a dark tunnel which could very well be a massive tomb put there to end all their lives, if he can’t get them around…what’s the use of hiding? Atticus could not stand it anymore, he wanted to curse the world, he wanted to kill the universe and time, and spit in the face of God if there even was one. Atticus whistled and called out, “You there, Spook!?” antagonizing the threats.
The zombie came into sight of the flashlight and knocked Atticus off kilter. How did it get so close? Atticus dropped his knife and flashlight. Little could be seen after that, the light bounced around the tunnel as a thick quick beam, sporadically lighting the scene. 

Atticus grabbed the zombie’s wrists, fell back, launching himself into a back-roll while taking the zombie with him; and ending up pinning it down in the dark with his knees by its ears. Atticus pulled a kitchen knife from his boot and jabbed it into the forehead of the zombie. 

He put it down and quickly got back to his feet. Crouched down low he now waited for the next one. The flashlight got kicked and Atticus stabbed the zombies in the gut, getting a hold of it to be able to pull the blade back out and finish the job in one fluent motion.
But they just kept coming. Atticus blacked out.

The adrenaline turned Atticus. He could have been moving through with his eyes closed it was so dark. Using it to surround him and move in secrecy, he cut down zombie after zombie before they could even find him. 

Corey called for him to no avail and Jackson was still too scared to move past his master’s legs. Atticus left a trail of bodies for the group to follow, all terrified and with a thousand questions for him but nobody said a word.
Gurgle after abrupt moan sent an echo down the tunnel; body after body rising from the sleeping darkness, too cold to move without food, now with a scent in the air and a dinner bell they begin to stir. The moans and growls turned to screams and took over the echoes. 

Samuel turned around from standing with Corey up ahead and walked past the girls over to Marcus and Ed. They looked at each other as Chambers was standing adjacent to them, staring back the way they came. Samuel knew what they all were thinking and said it softly, "The moans are coming from behind us, aren't they?"

 Just then Corey ran over to them from the front line with Jackson to tell everyone, “They’re coming!” 
“Where’s Captain Ross?” Rebecca demanded to know. 
“I...I don't know...I lost him in the darkness...and...”
"Just say it..."

"They must have gotten past him because they're headed right for us..." Keeping Your Demons At Bay

Nobody ever liked the Lincoln Tunnel, even before the apocalypse. The only thing more constant than traffic lining the lanes of both bounds was its everlasting appeal for frustration and torment. Now it was a last standing city monument of horror and death that they had just forced themselves halfway into the heart of with no means of escape. 

Samuel was worried. This was the first time he would have to think about surviving without Atticus. He was adapting yes, but part of him still was relying on Atticus. Back at his house was different. He wanted to die, it was Atticus who brought him back. None of that mattered now. Just realizing he would have to deal with that when the time came was enough, because he knew Atticus wasn’t dead, not yet. It wouldn’t be that easy. Samuel got himself together and brought everyone else to action.
“Corey, get the dog and the girls in that car. Stay in there with them until the coast is clear.”
“I want to stay out here with you.” Rebecca grabbed Samuel’s arm.
“We can't afford to lose you. The world needs doctors more than ever, Rebecca. Go!” He pushed her away.
They locked themselves in the car and the guys surrounded it. 

“Protect the car at all costs.”
Samuel had his pistol. Marcus had the ax. Ed was now holding the machete Chambers was using before, and Chambers had his pistol out. It was a shiny silver Desert Eagle .50. Chambers Khan had the best weaponry Samuel had ever seen. It was impressive to say the least.
“Chambers don’t fire until we absolutely have to.”
“Gotcha, boss!”
The zombie cries and calls were simmering. Something was wiping them away, as though they weren’t even there. Two came out from the darkness. You could tell they were in the open light because the girls were screaming from inside the car. Marcus chopped one's head off and thrust the point on the back of the ax into the neck of the other one, snapping it like a nutcracker and breaking its skull to pieces.
Staggered footsteps come at them again. A light is shown on the next intruder, an exhausted Atticus. Marcus nearly took his head off before Samuel stopped him. He had blood all over him, blood that wasn't his, and he was panting heavily, dazed, like he had just woken up. The girls got out of the car and Rebecca raced over to him. They opened another vehicle. This time they chose a giant black SUV and brought Atticus to the backseat. They couldn’t go anywhere. But while Atticus rested and Rebecca examined him they would all be safe. As she carefully wiped away the wretched blood that was not his own, Rebecca took a hard gulp. Only Samuel could read her face.
As the rest of the group discussed their current situation Samuel exchanged worried looks with Rebecca.

“He killed all of them?”Corey asked, petting Jackson's matted hair.
“How many do you think?”
“We’re going to find out when we keep going. We can’t be tripping over them on the floor, so once he’s awake he can lead us around them.”
 "What makes them different from the hundred of bodies we've had to trip on so far?" Ed pointed out.
"These might not be dead, and try to bite your ankle..."

A hair-raising notion.

They waited no longer than ten minutes before Atticus woke up, his head on Rebecca’s lap. Rebecca watched above him as he opened his eyes, realizing Atticus couldn't believe he was still alive. 
"What happened?"
"I don't know...I...I blacked out..."

Eventually he sat up, and they all got out of the truck. This time Atticus stayed back with Rebecca who was keeping a careful eye over him. Corey, Ed, Nora, Quinn, and Samuel watched the back while Marcus and Chambers took the lead with Jackson. Back in the truck, Chambers had fashioned the flashlight onto his bow with some duct tape and was now covering Marcus with his ax and little Jackson padding back and forth.
“How far do you think we are now, Doc?” Atticus paced.
“I’d say five more football fields to go.”
“We’re gonna make it!” Nora yelled enthusiastically.
Everyone cringed and Quinn judgmentally asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You of all people should know to avoid jinxes, Nora” Ed yelled.
“Just keep going,” Atticus gasped for a breath, “There’s…no such things as…jinxes.”
“Slow down everyone,” Samuel held them up, “Atticus needs a second.”
They hunkered down for a five minute break and turned there flashlights all off, the most reluctant to do so was Nora. Even Jackson cried out when it went all black. There was nothing like pure darkness. That is to say, there was nothing more terrifying. They shared water and listened to the silence. In this moment of pure darkness they finally would be able to fully appreciate the gift of the sun (if they could make it out alive to see it again), and a beautiful sunny day; just as the zombie outbreak made them re-appreciate the freedoms and comforts of being a modern day human.
Once they were all recharged and Atticus felt like he could make the rest of the journey everyone got back into position and began the final stretch. The ground beneath their feet shook. A loud crash and a rush of air hit them. Something was off. It was no longer calm. Ahead of them screams and moans went off with car alarms and behind them moisture and wind filled the air.
“It’s a tidal” Chambers muttered to himself.
“What was that?” Marcus called out.
Samuel caught on immediately and told the rest of them, “If we don’t hurry it will swallow us up and we'll all drown!” 
Everyone ran for their lives. Samuel and Rebecca helped Atticus as everyone else rushed past them. They screamed out up ahead, “ZOMBIES!” 

It's never easy.

Nora ran ahead of the group in a frantic haste. When she turned around to watch the others fend for their lives she was grabbed. Nora tried to break free, and when her dress ripped at their clawing hands, she was able to slip out it and get away, but quickly tripped over a broken railing and fell scraping her knee.
Ed caught up to his niece with the machete and cut the zombies down. More smelled her blood and surrounded them. Ed killed another clawing at her and lifted her up to her feet. Distracted with Nora his efforts to fend them off were lost. From his blindside a rotten old man came around Ed's neck and bit him right under his nose. Ed would have screamed in pain if their bites hadn't torn apart his vocal chords. Nora watched her uncle's face get peeled back by hungry teeth. Her screams were the ones that brought Samuel and Chambers to their rescue. "Ed!"

The gunshots were not as loud as they thought, not with the water closing in on them. They cleared a path to Ed and Nora. Amongst the dead zombies was Ed, moaning and clutching his face. Samuel fished through the rubble to find Nora. After pulling her out they found her practically naked yet unharmed, save the knee-scrape. 

"Somebody has to do something..." Quinn cried for Ed and Nora.

Samuel took off his suit jacket and put it around Nora while Chambers stepped forward to tend to Ed. His nose was gone, and a pile of blood spread beneath him. He was still clutching his head with his hands, but it was no longer in perseverance. Ed was eating his own arms. Nora gagged at the sight of it, and cried into Samuel's shoulder. The facts were clear, Ed was dead. After that realization Chambers had no trouble pulling the trigger and putting him out of his misery. Samuel practically carried Nora away while Atticus forced everyone to keep moving.
“There!” Marcus pointed, “There’s the light!”
They were finally at the end of the tunnel. Chambers and Atticus covered the group’s flanks as Corey ran ahead with Jackson to make sure the coast was clear. Marcus noticed the Welcome to New Jersey sign while escorting the girls, and Samuel still tended to Nora...utterly wrought with despair for her fallen uncle. 

"Here...sit...we're safe now..." Rebecca told Nora, everyone finally feeling the sun's grace on their shoulders and the relief of a journey's end. Everyone except Ed. The group took a collective exhale. The remaining tunnel zombies must have been swallowed up by the flooding tunnel.
Atticus found a maintenance closet at the end of the tunnel. He threw his body at the locked door, mustering all the energy he had left to open it. Everyone else rested and acted like they were in the clear. He was the only one who knew better. 

Atticus kept trying to knock the door down with his shoulder even though he was still not one-hundred percent, attracting everyone’s attention. Samuel was the first to put it together and rallied Chambers and Marcus over to help Atticus. Together they busted the door open, got everyone inside, and held it closed as the tidal wave came rushing out of the tunnel. 

The rapid waters flooded the highway and drained into Jersey. They waited in the dark closet and Atticus fell back asleep. Rebecca stayed by his side and rested his head on her shoulder. Samuel sat himself next tot them. "What's the matter?"

"I'm just worried, Sam, that's all, worried to death over whether or not he's gonna wake up with the fever."

"He wasn't bitten..."

"No, but when I was cleaning the blood off of him...he..." Rebecca unbuttoned the soldier's shirt to reveal what she was already saying, "he's got tiny scratches all over his body."

2.5.8 When Death Surrounds You, Look to One Another

Who knew a second date could be surviving the apocalypse? That’s what they did. Survive. Through chance and the fleeting service of their cell phones they found each other along the road. Tyrell was a city engineer and Jill worked in the Mayor’s office. They were both very well off before the fall of society. Tyrell fiddled under the hood of a ’97 Ford Taurus in the cover of a bridge’s shadow.

Tyrell and Jill never thought they would need to use their career skills ever again. Jill probably wouldn’t. Tyrell would be needed more than ever. Soon people would need him more than healers and soldiers. In the throes of society it was people like him, and doctors like Samuel who were capable of bringing entire city grids back online.
“We’ve been walking for days, Ty…” she called him Ty, only his Grandma called him that. She was so familiar with him already. Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean he has to marry the last girl he went out with…does it? “…Where are we even going?”
“The last broadcast on the radio said there was a refugee camp at the Meadowlands, shouldn’t be far now…” Tyrell slammed the hood down and got behind the driver’s wheel, “...Especially if I can get this piece of-”
A hard gurgle and the engine sputtered to ignition. “Yes!” Jill cried out softly, careful not to attract any unwanted attention as she ran around the car to the passenger side. Tyrell was not so cautious in the spur of the moment. “WAIT! JILL!”
Before Jill could get into the car a body crashed into the windshield. Tyrell was already racing around the car after her. When he got Jill to her feet they both could barely stand a look at the carnage.
“Is it one of them?” she asked Tyrell as he braved a closer look.
“I….I don’t think so…”
“How can you tell?”
“If it was, it would still be moving.”
The fallen girl had dirty blonde hair. Not much else could be seen of her besides the oddest choice of apparel. Tyrell stepped back, confused, and Jill asked him what was wrong. He did not answer. He just looked up at the bridge above them, tracing the fall of the dead girl in the tweed suit jacket.
“What is it?”
Seven silhouetted figures peered down at them from the bridge. 

They were alive.
Anyone who was capable of surviving the fall of society and world apocalypse could be inherently capable of anything else, no matter how gruesome or depraved. People had to be treated as hostile. Man will do anything for two reasons: to survive and to get what they want when there is nothing to stop them. Tyrell knew this, so did Samuel and Atticus. And yet a small sliver of hope in the remnants of humanity allowed them to give each other a chance. 
That night they spent in a Parkway Rest Stop. There were plenty of drinks and still some chips on the shelves, and most importantly... hardly any zombies. They built a small covered fire and sat around it as they got to know one another. It was not long before Jill asked about Nora, “So she just decided to opt out after the loss of her uncle?”
“There was nothing we could do,” Rebecca explained, “Before we even realized she was suicidal she took the first opportunity our backs were turned to…well… you know...”
Chambers volunteered to do a perimeter sweep. He ran around with Jackson the dog and took care of a former burger king employee and a man missing both of his arms and his nose. Chambers didn’t flinch when he put them down. He spun back around to one knee as they fell, saying, “You are released, my brothers, from this demon of an earthly body.”
Tyrell watched him from afar with Corey, “So what’s the deal with pirate Ted Nugent?”
“Haha, yeah, I can see that. He’s done alright by us though. He seems to know what he’s doing…in fact…he’s damn good at it.”
Chambers spent most of the night on watch. He could not sleep even if he wanted to, his eye was hurting. It wasn’t necessarily painful but it was a lasting, almost throbbing sensation. He tried cutting his headband to take some of the pressure off. It helped a little bit, but the eye was still uncomfortably raw.
Rebecca wanted to think about her late husband the way she could see Samuel was thinking about his late wife. But Ansem was always a madman, before he ever met Rebecca. They both thought that she cured him, she solved him, but really she just unleashed him on the world.
Everybody wanted to know how this all started. They wanted answers that the news and radio reports never gave them. Of course Rebecca, Samuel, and Atticus knew but if they told them and word got out something bad would undoubtedly happen to Rebecca as a result. The need for an explanation was one of the strongest human compultions. So they tried to question and theorize along with the rest of them. “Could be something religious…”
“Has anybody heard anything about the second coming of Christ since all this happened?”
"C'mon, that shit ain't real..." Chambers scoffed.
"Look around, man...It's the end of days," Marcus flared his convictions.
“…Anything about it where you came from?” Corey asked Tyrell.
“Just zombies…”
 "God, I never thought that word could be taken seriously..."
"I never thought I'd be living one of my favorite TV shows."
"Are you talking about The Walking Dead? I loved that show!" Jill squeaked. 
"Walking Dead had nothing on Dawn of the Dead." Chambers argued, "George Romero is the king of-"

“Never mind all that!” Quinn interrupted them, “Has anyone heard of a refugee camp or anything?”
“Last we heard they were taking people in over at the Meadowlands, that’s where we were going when ya’ll found us” Tyrell announced.
“We should go there!” Quinn suggested.
“You got to be out of your goddamn mind,” Atticus chimed in.
“Think about it... People are scared and stupid, they’ll go there even if they're bit. The military won’t be able to keep quarantine. It’s as good as overrun. We should do our best to avoid it.”
“Atticus is right,” Samuel agreed, “That’s why we need a place like a prison, no one will be there-”
“…Except the inmates.”
“Right, but they won’t be broadcasting it on the radios.”
“Marcus have you ever been to the prison?”
“…A couple of times after his trial. It’s right by the east coast, right off of I-95.”
“We’re on 95 right now.” Chambers pointed out.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re going there” Samuel led the conversation.
“What about Baltimore and D.C.? We can’t go anywhere near there.”
“We go down the Jersey shore,” Chambers added, “There's a ferry in Cape May.”
“Why Florida? Why not one of the dozens of prisons we could find along the way?”
“For starters my brother is there. Also Florida is hot year round. These things seem to slow down in the heat.”
“Florida’s surrounded on water by three sides” Atticus added, “Marcus says the prison is on the east coast, which means with our backs to the ocean we will be able to focus on one front instead of four.”
“Wait a second, does anyone even know how to drive a ferry?” Tyrell countered.
“I’m a United States Air Force pilot that has captained the most advanced piece of equipment ever built,” Atticus comforted them, “There's no vehicle on this godforsaken rock I can't comandeer.”
“We have a pilot and an astrophysicist”
“It’s theoretical-”
“Whatever you are,” Chambers finished his thought, “including a doctor… we almost got a full deck. All we need is an engineer…”
“Actually... I'm an engineer” Tyrell admitted.
The fireside fell silent after that. They all just looked at Tyrell in awe. Engineers were one of the most precious commodities in post-apocalyptic America. Tyrell was the key to water, heat, and electricity. Most modern comforts run by factories and fossil fuels; computer systems beyond a common man’s realm of knowledge. Samuel was somebody who could learn all of that or eventually figure it out, but Tyrell was the real deal. Samuel looked over at Atticus. They both knew what happened next. Tyrell was as important as Rebecca now, an integral part of the plan.
“Nothing personal, man...” Corey said to break the ice, “but I think everybody here just assumed engineers were white.”
Everybody laughed at the awkward racial joke that Corey took a chance on. Samuel talked to them before going to sleep about the road ahead. He gave them both comfort and warning. He offered up crucial rules to go by like never wandering off alone, or setting rally points if they get split up. His most important law he first told them in latin, “Salus populi suprema lex esto” And told them it was an ancient quote from Cicero, “You might know it as the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.”
“What’s that got to do with zombies?”
“When danger inevitably comes for us, we have to be prepared to make hard choices for the wellbeing of the group, like leaving Frank behind in the cage or taking care of Ed. Remember this… nobody’s life is more important than the group’s safety. There will always be hope, as long as we still have each other.”
Samuel gave them some inspiring words to end the night on so they didn't all go to bed depressed. Samuel wanted everyone not to worry while they sleep. They would have to be focused and get an early start tomorrow, maybe even use the cover of night before dawn as a way to avoid being seen by any unwelcome visitors. Water Under the Bridge

Looting became a part of everyday life. There was an unspoken agreement between the survivors: take only what you need. Chambers Khan seemed to find a niche in the nuances of necessity, collecting the most obscure items like a morning star that he pulled off a Comic Con-nerd too fat to escape the horde.
Rebecca watched him carefully; not only as a doctor would with a post-op patient, but as a guilt-ridden woman looking for the right moment to apologize for possibly infecting him. Through all of Chambers' findings he never looked satisfied, as if he had still not found what he was looking for. Dr. Pratt was reminded of his condition when she operated on him, replacing his eye back in the city. He had all the textbook signs. Now exacerbated through time and withdrawal, it was quite clear to her. The strung out hair, the withered face beyond his years; Chambers Khan had all the trademarks of a junkie.
The Garden State Parkway was packed full of cars on both bounds. People were confused, evacuating in every direction. Once the government fell it was every man for himself. Just like in the city, Atticus was the only one able to maneuver around the snaking parking lot of abandoned cars. That was until they reached the bridge into Cape May County, or what remained of it. Pillars with blackened tips stuck out of the river with concrete and littered vehicles drowned all around them.
Under the bridge was a smaller crossing still held together by cast iron train tracks. Samuel told them to take only what they could carry. They would have to leave the cars and cross over on foot. Fortunately there were no undead in sight. Unfortunately the sky above was clouded and thunder could be heard slowly approaching from the coast. Only Samuel and Atticus knew what that meant, exchanging nervous glances, unwilling to share what they already knew with the rest of the group.
One of the biggest churches any of them had ever seen was on the other side. Samuel brought them all in to hold up while Atticus and Corey, along with Jackson, scoped out the perimeter and searched for new rides.
 "Wait!" Chambers stopped Corey, "Take this, bro" He handed Corey the morning star, a giant metal mace from medieval times, lined with sharp spikes all around its head. A death machine.
The inside of the church reeked of death. Dead bodies lined the benches before the altar. Samuel, Marcus, Chambers, and Tyrell put down the rising dead with ease. Once the church was clear they split up and foraged for new supplies.
Rebecca kept a close eye on Chambers. Marcus and Quinn wandered into a side room out of sight. Samuel stood by the window above the front doors and watched the rainfall sweep over the church and highway. Tyrell came up behind him. Samuel knew he had to tell them. He would start with Tyrell.
Rebecca found a new pair of glasses that had her prescription. She hadn't seen clearly since she lost her glasses when they crashed the War Bird. Upon finding and putting on the glasses, Rebecca had lost track of Chambers. A soft tangle of smoke rose from behind the altar. There she found Chambers sitting down, basking in the light of the stain glass windows. He was huddled over a burnt piece of tinfoil. He had found his fix.
Rebecca sat down next to him. Chambers quickly put it away and held in the smoke.
"It's okay..." Rebecca gave way, "I just wanted to...apologize..."
Chambers exhaled, "Apologize for what, Doc?"
"Putting that eye back in your head." Tears welled up, "I didn't think- there was so much going on at the time, I-"
"Don't worry about it, Doc" Chambers smiled with his dilated pupils, "Water under the bridge."
Chambers offered her the grounded up oxy on the tinfoil as an olive branch. After a brief hesitation Rebecca thought to herself why the hell not? Rebecca got through school on scholarships and dean's lists. She never partied. She never experimented. She was the perfect student turned perfect doctor. Her whole life she lived by society's rules, never pushing any bounds. Rebecca always played it safe. She reached across, took the straw piece from his dirty fingers, and inhaled while Chambers heated the tinfoil.
Jill walked up on them while Rebecca was partaking, causing her to startle a coughing fit. Chambers laughed while Jill appallingly read Rebecca the riot act, "You're a doctor! You know that shit'll kill you!"
Rebecca looked up at Jill as the blue from the pain glass glazed over her, "Better this than them..."
"Here here!" Chambers raised an open can of beer.
"Where did you find that?" Jill shook her head.
Rebecca leaned into his shoulder and swiped it from him. Chambers' laugh masked the screams coming from the side room. Samuel rushed down from the balcony with Tyrell and Jill to meet Marcus and Quinn dragging a man in with his wife and baby trailing behind them.
"We found a garage and a bus along with these three," Marcus explained, "He has the fever, but I can't find a bite anywhere. What does that mean, Samuel?"
"Where's Doctor Pratt?"
"She's occupied," quipped Jill.
"What happened here?" Samuel asked the woman.
"It...it was a refugee camp until...well, we were overrun from the inside, someone must have gotten bit, I don't know, it all happened so fast..."
"Was it raining?" Samuel asked. Everyone but Tyrell looked at him.
"What does that have to do with it?" Quinn asked, almost insulted.
"...Oh no..." Marcus realized incredulously.
"Remember Ed's theory...atomizing the virus...The fallout particles in the rain clouds could have infected them."
"But it's raining right now..."
"Atticus and Corey are still out there!"
"Everyone calm down, don't worry, Atticus knows, he won't get caught in the rain."
"We have a problem!" Atticus yelled, throwing his coat back outside of the front doors while Corey and Jackson ran in ahead of him, still dry.
"The acid rain, they know," Samuel informed him.
"No, not just the rain," Corey rebutted.
They had stirred up a hornet's nest outside. The horde was gathering on the parkway and making its way towards them.
"Everyone to the bus!" Marcus led them all to the garage.
"We can't take him!" Jill protested.
"Where's Rebecca?" Atticus inquired.
She heard her name and needed Chambers' help getting to her feet. He was still laughing. She was still high. Rebecca could barely make sense of what was happened. She could barely put a sentence together. But Chambers took care of the first timer, practically carrying her to the bus.
After one look at Rebecca "WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO HER!?" Atticus' temper took over.
"Nothing! The lady did it to herself..." Chambers grinned.
"You scumbag!" Atticus tackled Chambers in the bus aisle, exchanging kicks and blows.
It took Samuel, Marcus, and Tyrell to break them up.
"What the hell is going on!?"
"He's a tweeker, Sam!" Atticus reached out again to attack Chambers, "Look what he did to her!"
"I didn't do anythi-"
"We don't have time for this!" Marcus yelled while he got in the drivers seat and started the bus. In all the commotion the man with the fever had slipped away with his family. When Corey opened the garage door they ran out into the rain for their car. "WAIT!"
The woman and her baby were covered. But the man was too fevered to be careful. The rain brought him down before the horde could. Once inside the car the woman cried out for her husband, "GEORGE!"
He must have had the keys. Corey watched this all go down while the group battled within the bus. He took the leash out from his pack, the leash that he never used, and clipped it onto Jackson's collar. Corey brought the pup into the bus and handed the leash to Marcus before stepping back out.
"What are you doing?" Marcus questioned his obvious intentions.
"We can't just leave them out there to die" Corey said, maintaining eye-contact with Jackson, accepting the fact that this was the last time he would ever see his pet "Close the door, Marcus, and... look after him for me..."
Marcus obeyed regretfully. Corey ran out into the acid rain with Chambers' morning star and plowed a path to the fallen husband. He rifled through his pockets and got the keys, cringing as the rain burned through his bare flesh. The horde surrounded him, but they could not get close as he swung the spiked mace. Inside the car, the woman got into the driver's seat and cracked the window.
Corey threw the keys to her, while her husband rose behind him.
Corey felt the teeth sink into the skin between his shoulder and neck. He already knew this was his time. The fallout rain had sealed his fate, now the zombies came to claim him. He managed to stumble back, attracting most of the horde away from the garage.
Atticus tended to Rebecca, who was uncontrollably sobbing after she realized what an unwitting mess she had become. How her harmless attempt at recreational experimentation had gone terribly awry, pitting the group against itself. Samuel walked up to the front of the bus where Marcus was driving to witness Corey's sacrifice. He rubbed Jackson's head while the pup pawed at the door with a broken whimper and helplessly watched his neighbor's final selfless moments, wondering if his end would be so noble.
The bus and the car drove off in separate directions leaving Corey behind, the center of a feast in his honor. The dead picked away at him for so long that by the time they were done the fallout rains had melted them all together into one grotesque pile of waling death before the fallen church. In his fleeting consciousness only one thought could escape through all the pain of dying...
Where was God? One More Reason

"Don't do this...please...I don't know what I'll do..."
"It's the only way I can be sure you're safe. We've seen what happens. I know how they act now. Don't leave, stay quiet, and no matter what always-"
"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!" She banged into his chest as she cried, "...You're! ..saying! good bye..."

He pushed her back by grabbing her wrists. With enough force he got her safely inside, and closed the door behind her, remaining on the outside.  All she could see out of the small window panel on the door after it was quickly covered by blood were their shadows coming down on him from the alleyway.

After that, only one constant reassurance allowed her some glimmer of comfort: not seeing her fiance turn up as a one of them.

Alice woke up. It was a beautiful sunny day. She put her plush robe on and walked out onto the balcony. The breeze felt nice. She had no problem appreciating the smaller things, mostly because she had to. It had been 3 weeks since she’s seen another living person. The kettle whistled and she went back inside. She returned to her deluxe oceanfront suite balcony at the Cape May Inn with a nice cup of earl grey tea. 
Alice was on the second floor, watching the waves come in, trying to ignore the persistently inconsistent swamp of zombies between her and the ocean. It was one solid block packed with roaming zombies, too hot to go far, and every so often catching Alice’s scent in the ocean’s salty winds kept them lingering. Alice tried to look past them, over the boardwalk arcade, through the sandy beach with spotted trapped ghouls in the sun cooked sand.
The past few days she made a show out of it, watching the undead soak into the bed of sand and then not being able to get out before it dried. Some would give up and sit down, some would never stop trying to break free, and some fried in the heat, becoming a mound of carcass, the way death was originally intended to be. But Alice could not go on like this forever.
She knew there were other people out there, but she was too scared to go looking for them. The last time Alice was out there she lost her fiancé, before that she lost contact with her parents, brother, and best friends over in Britain. She had lost everybody in her world to this plague. Alone and imprisoned, she made her final attempt at keeping her sanity.
As far as she knew, there were no zombies in the hotel. With his dying breath her fiancé barricaded the doors from the outside as they gnawed him to pieces. Out of twenty six people, Alice was the only survivor to make the trip. Between each death along the road she was not too damaged, for her dear beloved was right by her side the entire time. They never let each other out of their sights and always kept their guard up. Every time the camp was attacked or they were overrun, Wilfred kept Alice safe. Even in the end, he was her saving grace; and now he was gone.
Alice sipped her tea and heard a feint scream inland. She instinctively jumped up, ran inside, out of her hotel room, and to the roof. She looked into the woods, where the continual screams were coming from. Something was moving in the ground behind the church along the old road. It was a fenced lawn on a hill, with rows of age-old tombstones. Alice could hear the screams. And there was no mistaking; they were the screams of living people.
Samuel ran through the cemetery with a shotgun he had picked up along the way, and Rebecca and Quinn by his side. Everything was different for Samuel now, after Corey. He would not lose control of the group again. Chambers followed up behind them with his ax out. From across the way, the church doors blasted open and Atticus ran out with Marcus, Tyrell, and Jill.
Although Marcus had trouble taking care of the dog, a promise he reluctant made with Corey, Jackson didn’t need his late master anymore to go out and scout the road ahead for the group. He was comfortable with Samuel, who was always a familiar face. Once in a while, Samuel’s family used to dog-sit for Corey, so Samuel, and also his son Warren became close with Jackson back before the outbreak.          
Alice heard the dog bark at the cemetery. That one bark compelled her to leave her hotel sanctuary; a safe place she thought she would never walk away from. She snuck out the kitchen door in the back alleyway and ran quietly away from the horde in front of the hotel. Alice was terrified, but she kept thinking about how scared that dog must be. She ran down the old marketplace, so tight and close together that there is no room for cars to drive through. Luckily for her there were no zombies in her way, until she came to the street before the ridge.
Jackson ran back to Marcus who struggled to grab and pet the dog. Jackson awkwardly dodged Marcus' attempts at affection and ran to Samuel who was turning down the street. He put the scattered few zombies down with his shotgun, from right to left and came upon Alice standing still in the street, last on the line. There was no blood on her, no bites, no scrapes, she was…alive. No Way Out

There was something about her that could not be explained. The dog loved her from day one. Jackson got his furry neck snapped back as he uncontrollably urged for the strange girl. "Aw!" Alice squeaked as Jackson barked frantically while Marcus reeled him in. Alice soothed the pup and scratched his head. Jackson stopped barking, he loved it. The first thing Alice couldn’t help but think upon meeting Marcus was what a dashing man he was… As far as first impressions go; she had trouble looking at him directly in the eye, and blushed when he smiled at her.

Samuel ran over to Alice. She was smiling and crying all at the same time and looked at him, waiting to say hello. Samuel did not look her in the eye. Instead he examined her from head to toe. “Are you bit? Are you hurt at all?”

“Nope,” she squeaked in giddy excitement, “I’m the last living human in this lovely capetown.”
“Oh! Roight! I’m British. Weird, huh? You’re probably thinking… How did this brit get all the way to Jersey? I’ll tell-”
“Who’s this?” Atticus interrupted.
“Hi! I’m Alice. Plesha!

The rest of the group surrounded Alice and she laughed. She was nervous and excited. Alice went from feeling like the last person in the world to the new girl in town. She remembered what it felt like to be special, a feeling she had lost with her fiance. Everyone introduced themselves to her.

Quinn loved Alice's curly brown hair, having straight hair herself. Rebecca acted like a mom and a doctor as she immediately felt Alice’s forehead for a temperature. She was very careful with her behavior after the bridge incident. Rebecca felt terrible about Corey’s death, taking responsibility for his sacrifice and blaming it on her causing conflict within the group.

Chambers looked like an ‘80’s hairband guitar player and scared her a little when he strung his bow with an arrow and shot it right at her, just narrowly missing her face and colliding with the head of a zombie leading a full-on charge at them. . .


The zombies from in front of the hotel had heard all the gunshots at the cemetery and made their way around the town to the road before the hill. There were so many of them. Samuel turned to Atticus. “We don’t have enough ammo!”
“What do we do!?” yelled one of the girls.
“RUN!” Chambers screamed again as he got in between the horde and the survivors.
The dog took off from Alice’s side and she didn’t start running with the rest of them, instead she just stood there, yelling, “HERE BOY! COME BACK! NO!”
Marcus grabbed Alice’s hand and told her quickly, “Don’t worry, he always comes back. Right now 
he’s the safest out of all of us.”

Alice was already taken by Marcus and unbeknownst to him she would have most likely done whatever he said anyway. Atticus and Samuel led the front of the group with Rebecca close in-toe.
The zombies were slow but not as a horde. They seemed to gather energy from each other and in masses were often unstoppable. Outrunning them now was not an option; they needed a shelter or means of escape.

“Alice! Where did she come from!?” …Yelled out Samuel from the front.
“Is he talking to me?” Alice asked Marcus, all in the rush of running.
“She must have been held up somewhere, right!?” Samuel went on when he got no answer from Atticus, who was a little preoccupied putting down a couple zombies trying to flank them on the right.

“I think they are,” Marcus answered Alice, “Is it nearby…your hideout?”
“The Cape May Inn! I closed the door when I left. It should be-”
“Tell them!” Marcus interrupted.
“It’s the Cape May Inn!” Alice tried to yell with her polite British accent.
Marcus amplified with his own shout, “CAPE MAY INN!”
Samuel and Atticus looked back at them, “WHERE?”
“Down the market, and up to the left, right before the boardwalk!”
“…DOWN THE MARKET!” Marcus yelled, “…TO THE LEFT…”
Marcus gave up trying to scream it all, “Can you run?”
“I mean…are you tired…can you run faster?”
“Why? Are you…”
“We need to lead them there; we should lead them…right?”           

Alice was confused and scared, but not tired, “…Roight…Yes!”  They sprinted while still holding hands and together passed Tyrell and Jill, and Quinn. Alice was almost having fun. They got to Samuel and Atticus, with Rebecca now slightly in front of both of them.

“She can show you!” Marcus let go of Alice’s hand, and she ran up to Rebecca who was turning a corner. “No, it’s this way!” Alice grabbed her shoulders and they both ran across the street to an unseen path. It looked like a town-block too small to be a road. It was the marketplace. And it served as a funnel for the horde following them. 

The brainless undead had a lot of trouble in the marketplace, comically tripping over all of the benches, tables, and chairs from outdoor dining restaurants. This gave the survivors some much needed time and space as they left the market and crossed the street. The last block before the beach and boardwalk was sparse with zombies.

Alice showed them down the alleyway to the back door. Before they got to it, Alice climbed up the fire-escape, into a window that was slightly propped open, and inside, letting the window close and lock behind her. When the rest of the group got to the back door it was locked. Everyone caught up to each other and took time to catch their breath.
“What are we gonna do now?” Jill panicked.
The zombies turned the corner down the alleyway.


Chambers pounded one last time on the door before walking away from it and Marcus. The girls backed away as he stepped forward with Marcus, Samuel, and Atticus, all wielding their melee weapons. Chambers clipped his bow onto his quiver and unsheathed his machete. Marcus threw one up against the wall and stuck a flat-head screwdriver up into its cranium. Atticus used his tactical knife to put the zombies down that Samuel knocked over with his shotgun.

Marcus let the girls bang on the door while he stood between them and the fight. Too occupied to help it, one slipped by... Marcus held the fire ax tight. The axe closed in on the grotesque face and implanted into the wall. The fire ax wouldn't come free, as the strike was too high, and the zombie was starting to wiggle free, its bottom teeth still biting for Marcus who was unwilling to leave the ax behind.

Their feet got tangled and Marcus fell back with it on top of him. He freaked out with it squirming above him, blood pouring out everywhere. Marcus broke free and moved back only to find it nipping at the girls' legs. Mustering what strength he has left, Marcus pulled the carnivorous corpse by the pants back towards him.

It's a good thing zombies are not picky, because it came right back for him.

With one hand keeping its head above him by a firm grasp of the neck, his other hand frantically searches for his screwdriver. His fingers wrap around the screwdriver caught in a tear of his jeans. It slowly shakes free, sliding out from his belt. Unable to focus it slips through his fingers and rolls away on the floor towards the feet of another approaching zombie. Never a Dull Moment

Marcus would hold this thing up by the neck until his arms gave out if he had to. As the other got closer he hoped it would knock his screwdriver back over but that never happened. Instead the walking corpse was on one knee leaning in for Marcus.

A wave of kicks freed Marcus of both zombies. The girls came to his rescue while he grabbed the screwdriver. He swiped it up and immediately put down the one that he had by the neck. Before Marcus or any of the other men could tend to the last one Rebecca had bashed its skull in with her pistol.

Chambers laughed and clapped for his girl. Rebecca looked unimpressed and Atticus' blood-pressure was rising. But Chambers had it out for someone else. "You see, Marcus, that's a girl. Not some worthless limey chick."

 “I wouldn’t say worthless,” Marcus said as he lodged free the axe in the wall and the kitchen door unlocked, and opened. Alice popped her head out as it swung open, looking for someone in particular. Once she found who she was looking for she turned and ran back inside leaving the last one to close the door.   
Tyrell closed the door and locked it with time to spare. The door was solid, you had to put your entire weight behind it to move it; and you had to crank the lock. As Atticus and Samuel finished locking it, there was no need to barricade the door. But they did it anyway, pushing one of the refrigerators in front of the door. 

Alice took them upstairs. There were two corpses on the floor in the lobby, with a shattered chandelier covered in blood all around them. Alice laughed as they walked by, and blushed, “Yep. That was all me.” She laughed again flexing her arm. 

“There’s food and hot water. But the electricity goes in and out.” Alice told them all about the Inn, having made it her home as of late, “I think it’s not coming back every time, but so far it has…”
Everybody dispersed to go indulge, all except for Chambers who looked around at all the glass windows and doors. Mostly everybody went upstairs to the rooms for a shower, before the hot water was all gone. Alice stayed downstairs with Chambers. 

Whot’s wrong?” she asked.
Chambers put his hands on the glass windows that were only a couple of feet off the ground outside. “We can’t stay here.”
“Why not? I’ve survived here for over two weeks now…or was it three?”
“They didn’t know you were in here. One girl, not making much noise, we led a whole horde of them to this place. In a couple of minutes they’re gonna smell their way around here and get to these windows. We need to get upstairs and get everyone out of here now.”

“What if they’re all taking showers…”
“…You warn the women, I’ll warn the men…”
Marcus walked down the stairs as they were running up them. “What’s goin’ on?”
“We gotta go now!” Chambers yelled. “Get them out!”

Marcus followed them back upstairs and they ran into the rooms. Alice heard a tapping on the windows as she made it to the top of the lobby stairs, but she could not brave a look back. Marcus and Chambers got Atticus and Samuel out before they even made it to the bathroom. They were also still on alert like Marcus and Chambers. 

Alice had trouble though, as Quinn was already in the shower, and Jill was sharing a shower with her man. Rebecca was the only one not caught off guard when Alice came in. She was sitting in a chair silently looking out the window at the ocean. Alice recruited her help in getting the rest out when suddenly a noise was heard. Muaaaaaaargh! 

They're inside. 
Atticus and Samuel charged out of the rooms followed by Chambers and Marcus. 
But how?

“WAIT!” Rebecca commanded them.  “Is there another way out?” she turned to Alice.
“There’s another staircase at the end of the hallway that leads to a fire exit.”
“And we need to get Quinn, Tyrell and Jill…”
“Okay, okay…” Samuel had to think, “You gotta get them out, get to the boardwalk, find a marina, find a boat…” He told Atticus, Alice, and Rebecca.  

Samuel turned to Chambers and Marcus, “We hold them back.” 

Everybody nodded their heads in agreement of the impromptu plan and they split up. Rebecca ran to the other end of the hallway as Alice and Atticus got Quinn, Tyrell, and Jill out.  Samuel and Chambers both held their guns out at the top of the grand staircase with Marcus wielding the axe between them. From every corner of the lobby windows branching cracks disassembled the glass after a bludgeoned hand made final contact. The Next Great Scramble

The first few were shot in the knees to slow the others down, but that just clogged the center and forced them up the winding staircases riding both walls over to Samuel, Chambers, and Marcus. They used their ammunition sparingly, only shooting one and then kicking it back on top of the rest behind it trying to climb the stairs. The mess in the middle let out and up the main staircase. Marcus looked back and forth at Samuel and Chambers nervously. He was the only one without a gun. and so he took a deep breath and stepped forward. Marcus felt the resistance of Samuel grabbing his shoulder and could have cried.

"There's no stopping them. Fall back...C'mon....let's get out of here."

They started retreating back, all three, unharmed, Samuel, Chambers, and Marcus, but the zombies were following closely. Alice hurried down the stairway and out the fire exit with Quinn right behind her. Outside the fire exit was the alleyway. Rebecca and Atticus were out in the adjacent street firing back towards the inn’s main entrance. Everyone else staggered outside in an all out sprint. 

Quinn left her pack behind, barely getting her glasses on to catch up with Alice. Tyrell and Jill on the other hand stopped to fix each other up and get their clothes back into their bags when Samuel, Marcus, and Chambers came rushing in to get them

Everyone shuffled out of the inn's fire exit. In the madness, Chambers knocked into Tyrell and Jill, landing all three of them on the ground. The zombies poured out of the stairwell right on top of them. Samuel grabbed Tyrell as Marcus grabbed Chambers; both he and Tyrell went for Jill, but it was too late. 

The zombies had her leg pinned down and now everybody was caught in a game of tug of war. 

Samuel pulled Tyrell, who pulled Jill along with Chambers. The rabid undead got stuck in the doorway behind them as they struggled. They crawled out to Jill and bit into her leg and side. Jill watched as everyone else ran away, too scared to face the door and what they were running away from. By now the zombies were too close. 

The pain was insurmountable, and so she just blocked it out, it was warm, numb, and wet. But the horror was real. People with feral eyes, and torn up faces eating her alive all the while Tyrell writhing like a madman in Samuel’s arms. Chambers forced himself to let go of Jill and dive at Tyrell before the zombies broke free from the door, helping Samuel get them out of the alleyway safely. Samuel, Tyrell, and Chambers left Jill behind and caught up with the others. 

Tyrell punched and shook his way free of Samuel and Chambers. With the boardwalk cleared, it took the added force of both Atticus and Marcus to get Tyrell to calm down and give up going back.
“SHE’S DEAD, MAN!” Chambers kept yelling as they dragged him through the sand. 

“We have to go, Ty” Samuel insisted.
“I can’t leave her,” Tyrell cried as he clutched his own head in agony, and let them drag him away.
They were on the beach now; Alice was showing them the zombies stuck in their own quicksand, as they loosely navigated around them.
“I don’t see a boat anywhere…” 

Everywhere they looked down the beach there were no signs of boats or docks, just lifeguard benches and dunes. Now the day would get them, with all the options and chances failing, the zombie horde stormed over the boardwalk and onto the beach. 

“We need to choose now!” Atticus yelled. 

Nobody had ever been to this place before. The only reason they came here was because of a hunch. A hunch which turned out to be like every place else, desolate.  Back when Corey and Jill were still alive. That’s when Samuel realized; splitting up often ends in death, but is necessary to their survival and the greater good. So Samuel split the group in half: Samuel, Rebecca, Atticus, and Tyrell, and then Marcus, Alice, Chambers, and Quinn. One group went up the beach and one group went down. 

Samuel fell back and let Atticus lead their group in search for a boat. He needed to make sure Tyrell was alright, along with Rebecca who was back in doctor mode, making sure Tyrell wasn’t scraped or bit. “He appears to be clean.” She told Samuel, “But I don’t think he is okay…emotionally…”
“Who would be?” Samuel logically deducted. It is normal to be shocked or devastated when you lose a loved one. If any two people could relate, it was Samuel and Rebecca.

 “In time... he will get better."

The following are 2 shorts from the Halloween Specials, 2 separate documented survivor stories from the same blood-run world...

The Risen Dead

Scott wanted to puke. The blood was all over him. Stacy was just to his left on the floor. Who knows where the others were. Their plan had gone horribly wrong. Scott looked into Stacy's eyes. Their hands stretched under the motionless1 bodies; just a fingertip out of reach. For some reason he knew...

This was the end for them.

It had been 4 years to the day, October 19th, 2012, only the two of them had survived that long in the entire family of Matsukos. All their brothers and sisters were eventually killed, and then killed again. Even their poor children had all been infected. That is all that can be said on that matter. Scott and Stacy still lived on with all this. At least Scott did...

The dead walked over them and did not notice. Two warm bodies in a sea of lifeless bone and flesh, as the horde moved upstream. Stacy looked up. His teddy bear swiped softly across her face. "SCOTTY!" she screamed out for her son. Scott watched helplessly as they all turned in on her and devoured his wife one handful at a time. She was gone in less than a minute.

His baby boy turned around with his dead zombie eyes and found his father. His teddy bear was carried across the dead mounds, smearing Stay's blood like a paintbrush. Junior was coming straight for daddy. He moaned and pointed at Scott. He had to run. But as soon as he moved they would all be on him. There was the door. It was either that or the window.

Little Scotty Matsukos Junior dug for his father on the floor, and when his fingers touched Scott's skin he shot up into the air, picking up his son and running through the door and out of the apartment. Junior nipped at his neck. He heard a dog barking upstairs. It was Clark and his American bulldog, Polo. Scott ran up the stairs two at a time. Polo barked again like a siren. Then an actual siren as they popped the door to the roof open.

When he got to the rooftop, Clark was up there along with Marcus, his daughter Hanna, Archy, and Castor. Why Castor? Out of the fifteen of them who rushed this building, why did he get to be one of the six who survived? This bastard lives when his wife had to die. And yet, deep down, Scott knew this was all bullshit. She wanted to die. Ever since Scotty turned, and they could not bear to kill him, Stacy had given up. Now here he was. The only member of his family left, as his own zombie boy wrestled slowly in his arms.

Scott let him go and reloaded his 9mm pistol. He knew what he had to do this time. He shot his son in the head and freed his soul from the horrid purgatory that is the Undead. The next bullet was for his own head as he fell to his knees.

"Don't do it, Scott."

The group stood before him. They all knew what he was, no one had to say it out loud, but I will. He was our leader. Now see if you can guess who I was... Anyway, Scott didn't kill himself because he was the leader. He was the one who got us all here. He was the one who kept us alive all this time. Most of the time, I always thought, 'what if he's just doin' this for his wife and family?' Now I knew, he did it for more than that.

He did it for more than just caring about other people, he did it because when you know no one else will, heroes choose to take it on themselves. Scott did it because he was born to be a leader. And that is why he did not kill himself that night.

* * *

Archy finally had his laptop. The whole point of storming that zombi-infested apartment building, his old apartment building. He could get onto the internet. The best thing that ever happened to manking2. It was taking him the better part of two days to do it, but he reassured us that he definitely could. I believed him, along with Scott and the rest of us, all except Castor. He constantly made his opinion clear, that's for sure.

The convoy drove down the small town road, empty houses, open road, zombie free...

This ragtag group of weathered and reinforced post-apocalyptic age steel armored cars, vans, and SUV's barreled through town like true road warriors. The dirt and tarnished trim of these vehicles made them all look the same sad grey color.

"STOP!" Archy yelled, his red baseball cap flies off his head as he opens the sliding van door and jumps out. "I GOT SOMETHIN'!!!!!"

He runs through the street and weaves through a break in the fence. The old metal fence is dark and the points go tall into the air, trying to stab the clouds. The convoy pulled over and set up a perimeter. It was what they all had feared. Archy had ran into a cemetery.

And suddenly the ground was rising with the claws of the dead. Scott yelled out and the team split in half. Castor and Marcus got back in the cars as Scott and Clark ran with Hanna and Polo for Archy. Polo got to Archy first and barked for the others to find them. Scott arrived with his 9mm, Clark with his ninja blade, and Hanna with her father's shotgun.

Castor and Marcus ran down the zombies flocking to the graveyard from the town. It was one of the funnest jobs zombie maintenance could offer. That is when you've lost all sensitivity towards these things. Playing with dead bodies is like playing in dead leaves nowadays.

They all circled around Archy as he accessed the web. He could not believe it... Google3 was up and running! Even Facebook4 was online for God sake. There were 20 survivor group invitations on his account. People were rebuilding society through social networking. It was unbelievable.

Now every question, every curiosity, could be answered. Where it all began...What happened exactly? Is there a cure? What do we do? Archy typed them all in one by one. A list of the top questions to ask if ever given the opportunity, made by Scott, chosen by every member of the group.

All I will say, for you must already know by now, is this... In late 2012, some doctor in the middle east went against every man-made, universe-made, and god-made law in existence. He cloned a human. The clone that came out of the experiment was a monster. It attacked its original self and together they ate the entire lab. From their the plague spread across all of Eurasia and Africa.

When the rest of the world thought that it came over on planes and boats, the truth is that radical nihilists from dying eastern countries weaponized it in a gaseous state, like smallpox, and launched them in random rogue missiles that landed on the east coast of North America. Terrorism gave the finally death-stroke to the race of man. That is all.

Archy and Hanna feverishly wrote down everything they could. Scott stopped them. He looked at the screen, quickly scrolled. He handed them his gun, told them to cover, and continued running through all the news and info.

Archy watched him. "Are you memorizing all of that?"

"Trying to."

"That's some Navy Seal shit..."

"I never told you I was a CIA Agent?"

"I thought you were a dentist."


"Ummmmm! We're in trouble!" screamed Hanna. The zombies had them surrounded. Polo barked as the closed in. Castor and Marcus busted through, running them down and throwing them away. The car doors opened and they ran to get in, but the horde was growing to thick again. As he pulled away to make another loop, Marcus' car ran over a tombstone and it tore his axle up bad. The car spun out of control. It toppled over and broke it's frame, collapsing into a heap. Castor drove up next to them and called out, "THE KEYS! TOSS ME THE KEYS TO YOUR YACHT, OLD MAN!"

Marcus coughed and awoke, he looked around, his legs were crushed. He was dying. "Tell my daughter that I love her, and that I didn't die like one of these demons." Marcus threw him the keys and died in the drivers seat. Castor caught the keys, closed his door and peeled out. The car left the cemetery and the rest of the group. Castor had finally gotten what he wanted, now he was gone.

Scott was trapped along with Archy and Clark as they both consoled Hanna who was crying in their arms. Scott was now holding the shotgun. Keeping the Undead at bay. He had no escape plan this time. They were surrounded. There were a hundred zombies between them and the other cars.

Clark told Polo to run. And the poor dog obeyed his master. He ran through the crowd of brain-eaters as they barely tried to go after him. Polo slipped away unnoticed. Clark took solace in that. Just as Archy took solace in finally getting onto the web, and Scott took solace in finally finding out what caused all this. It was only Hanna he would die with no hope left in her heart. If it wasn't for Castor...

Suddenly his car was back and they were all climbing in the doors. Hanna got in the front seat. She looked over at the self-obsessed asshole, "Thanks," she said in a flirty voice, "Thanks for coming back."

"I only came back for you, Sweetheart," Castor said with a sly grin, staring into the road ahead.

Scott sat in the back, uneasy. Archy sat between them with his laptop, discovering all the data Scott had saved in the short time they were online. Clark stared out the window. He whistled once, there was a bark. Polo came running out of the cemetery. He jumped into the car on Clark's lap. He rubbed his faithful dog. His best friend. His only surviving family. He noticed something behind his ear. It was a wound. Worse than that, it was clearly infected...A zombie bite. Clark would not tell them about Polo until it was necessary. He picked up a notebook and a pen and started writing that day.5 For he knew eventually...everyone would die like Polo...

1 the word "dead" can no longer be used to imply lifeless bodies
2 it is believed here that in the original journal entry the author meant to make the spelling error
3 & 4 Two cultural references from the early 2000's, an internet search engine and a social network
5 This is just one entry from The Risen Dead, his book on the entire account of the Zombie Apocalypse

Risen Dead II: The Bonds We Keep

"Tell me again...what happened to my parents..."

"When the world went to hell no one saw it coming. People didn't believe the news reports until it was outside your front door. Most families rushed to hospitals and refugee camps, they died first. Some stayed home to wait it out, but as the number of dead began to outnumber humans the horde was big enough to swallow even well-fortified houses up whole. Only those who made it out of the cities in time stayed alive. Your parents were smart enough to escape but not lucky enough to survive."

"Are they dead or risen?"

"I'm sorry, Ophelia..." Boss Vance hung his head in shame and remembered the day the fort was overrun...

That day the number of survivors was more than cut in half. Fort McDonnell was up in the Adirondack. Built in the 1700's and reinforced with the present day military upgrades, it was an ideal place to wait this pandemic out. Boss was already in the group when they arrived. Nobody really knew him and besides protecting the group nobody really trusted him. He knew and kept to himself because of it.

Being on the outside looking in he found himself watching the group exist around him. He always admired Ophelia's father constantly putting the 2 lives of his women before his own. But nothing could stop it. You see back then they still hadn't known the plague was now airborne, and the fort teared itself apart from the inside out. This was the last time the word "airborne" served as just a rumor.

"Please Mr. Vance...you've never told me what actually happened that day... I'm old enough now, I deserve to know the truth!"

"Okay...okay...Ophi. You are right, you deserve to know, just don't get mad when I don't hold back..."

Ophelia was scared but still wanted to know, she needed to know, ever since she was young, almost five years ago. She was finally getting smart enough to be self aware and curious of her past. Her maturity was obliterated in the chasm of the apocalypse. Boss knew if he left her alone her fate was grim. Boss knew he was unfit but looked around that day and something changed inside him.

Martin and Joan were her parents. Ophelia's guardians against the undead plague. Martin still had his tie on with a crowbar in his hand. That is how Boss knew they were from the city. Martin pushed his glasses up and smudged red on the lens. His girls were okay. They made it to Fort McDonnell.

There was no one to blame when people began to drop from fever. It could be nothing. Many were dead within the hour. The soldiers who first led our group contained most of them. "That is until you fell."

"What?" Ophelia gasped.

"Your father..." Martin stood up to the few remaining military leaders. He kept them from shooting Ophelia before she rose, like a wild animal he fought, wielding both their rifle barrels in his hands. Joan protected her baby no matter how crappy she felt. Before long the fever took a hold of her too and both of Martin's girls were unconscious on the ground.

"When your mom re-awoke her eyes were dead. I tried to save your father but his back was turned and vulnerable." Martin released the guns involuntarily and stumbled back when his leg was snatched and his ankle bit.

Martin turned around ready to strike the zombie when he saw it was his own wife.

Before his hand could fall they were both gunned down by the soldiers, but it was too late. "The other dead had risen and people were already getting bit. I had to do something. I ran to their deaths and your family was nothing but a pile'a bodies. And I prayed that one moment...Once since this all happened...that there was something I could've done...something that I could do. I prayed and prayed and prayed...and that's when you broke your fever and awoke still alive."

"From that day forward you became my responsibility..."

"All because of a prayer?"

"What I realized later on is that... It was there... right in front of us the whole time. What did that zombie movie say...'When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth?' Well if there is a hell then there must be a heaven or at least fate."

Boss looked above Ophelia, at the ceiling where there was a latch. They had run out of food 3 days ago after finding this fallout shelter almost 6 months ago. It was fun while it lasted but now it was time to go back outside. Boss gathered his equipment. A brief nostalgia reminding him of where he came from and how he survived.

His shotgun, the only thing keeping him alive above the rest. His pack with his rations and change of clothes. Including the elastic gear. Under Armor and tights under his shirts and pants, an advanced version of medieval chain-mail.  Boss' belt was rag tag mix of hunting knifes, kitchen knifes, screwdrivers, and stakes. His best melee weapon he gave to Ophelia to protect herself. Along with the machete Boss gave Ophelia the very same crowbar.

The same crowbar that her father tossed up to Boss when he was gunned down. Boss then carried Ophelia to safety, after taking her by the hand up to the soldier that killed her parents, pressing his shotgun up to the soldier's armor and pulling the trigger. His partner turned on Boss as he picked up Ophelia, giving her the crowbar to hold. Poor little girl was so traumatized already she didn't even cry. She just awaited her fate. Boss let the zombies take the other soldier out as he used his remaining shells on the wooden barricades covering the back door.

Once clear he opened the door and swung it around, enclosing him and Ophelia while unleashing the horde on any survivors left in the fort. When Boss felt the coast was clear he opened the door enough to get out and closed it behind him; sealing the tomb. Outside he reloaded his shotgun while posting baby Ophelia on guard with the crowbar.

Security she was not so good at, but surveillance there was none other. Its like she could sense them and the moment they were in eyesight or earshot Ophelia would cry out. Boss looked up and saw it coming for them. It was only one and if he fires his shotgun more will come. So Boss looked around for something quiet, his belt rather empty. Embedded in one of the already slain zombies was the black machete. Like the sword and the stone, Boss put his foot on the body and pulled the machete from it just in time to lobotomize the approaching zombie.

Boss put his equipment on and climbed the ladder to open the latch. When he looked down, Ophelia was putting on her own utility belt with screwdrivers and Swiss army knives. Boss lifted the heavy metal latch to daylight, dull grey afternoon. He got a quick look around and helped Ophelia out of the fallout shelter. They ran across the backyards to the end of the street. They were in a suburban neighborhood built into the mountain.

Boss searched for a car with adequate fuel, to his luck there was a truck with the keys still in it. When he called for Ophelia she was did not answer. He got back out of the truck and when he closed the doors saw a man holding her by the throat.

"You can't take her Ned!"

"It was just a matter of time is what I figured," Mad Ned Candles laughed.

Boss approached them slowly.

"That's far enough, Boss!" Ned Candles held a knife to Ophelia's throat. Boss looked into her eyes and she did not cry. She knew Boss would do something, she knew Boss would save her.

"Drop that shotgun big guy!"

Boss threw his shotgun on the floor and raised his hands slowly. He winked at Ophelia who drew a screwdriver from her belt. Suddenly she froze up like she used to when she was little only without screaming out. There were undead nearby. Boss looked around and spotted them. He looked back at Ophelia and signaled her to protect her throat instead of stabbing him with her screwdriver.

The zombies come crashing down on Ned Candles and he falls on Ophelia pressing the blade into her throat. Luckily Ophelia caught the blade with her screwdriver in time. Ned screams out as the dead gnaw on his neck and back. Ophelia wrestles with his knife when they hit the floor. Boss tries to pull her out of the wreckage and fights off the dead rising long enough for Ophelia to run away.

Boss knocks each one down with a blow to the head. They start to become too much for him as even dead Ned Candles rises. The machete gets stuck in Ned's dead head and Boss trips up after losing his grip. They tower over him when he sees Ophelia get free and pick up his shotgun.

Before the last shell hit the barrel she dropped each and every zombie around Boss. It was too late though. At least it was for poor Ophelia. Ned's knife was sticking through her hand. In order to free herself she had to dislodge it from Ned's motionless corpse. Her blood was tainted just the same as a bite. Instead of making Boss kill her or not telling him and eventually turning, Ophelia took the other way out. With the last shell in the Boss' shotgun, Ophelia opted out of the horror that was becoming the living dead.

Boss dropped to his knees and stared at the girl and the shotgun. What was he suppose to do now? How was he suppose to go on?" What was the point? After all those years of taking on meaning, he was once again alone...

One man trying to survive in the Zombie Apocalypse.


No comments: