Chapter 10 - Entry 5
June 22nd cont.
There wasn’t a whole lot of planning involved for our little rebellion. Marley and I shared a quick, private word in the hallway after dinner where she assured me the majority were with us. Unfortunately, I was gonna be a key player.
“You’ve been going inside the command room ever since this started Glen. With your guns, no less. It has to be you.” She whispered.
“I’m not just goin to waltz in there and shoot them Marley. Don’t ask me to cold murder anyone.”
“I’m not. None of us need to kill them. Jaeger will.” That thought didn’t comfort me at all.
“Tonight. At eleven.”
And that was pretty much it. She handed me a pair of handcuffs, patted my shoulder, and went back into the cafeteria. I stood there staring at them for a few minutes before someone walked by and I stuffed em in my pocket. The whole thing made me feel sick to my stomach.
“All armed personnel report to the second and third floors with your weapons and spare ammunition. We will begin clearing zombies from the grounds at Twenty-hundred hours.”
I recognized Olora’s emotionless voice over the PA system as she spoke. It sounded like some kinda female robot or recording. Actually, it reminded me of the automated phone system used by the Veterans Admin. I hated that damn voice.
With twenty minutes to spare, I headed down to the basement where they’d built a wall with a little window set into it. A line had formed as folks waited for the quartermaster to give em ammunition from the gun locker behind that wall. I only had five minutes left to find a spot by the time he handed me a box for my rifle.
I found a window on the second floor and pulled up a chair to get comfortable. The glass was still partially intact so the butt of my rifle cleared it out enough to not be dangerous. With the chair turned around backwards, I put a pillow over its backrest and nestled my rifle into place. Outside was a nightmare.
They’d turned on every outside light by then and hundreds of pasty white faces were plain to see. I knew it’d be just as bad on the building’s backside. Some part of me dreaded seeing that big, grass-covered yard turned into a bloody mudbowl.
George’s voice, sounding exhausted enough to slur his words a little, came over the building’s PA system at eight o'clock sharp. “Ok people. Take your time and make every shot count. Fire slow and steady so you don’t overheat your gun or make your shoulder too sore. We just want to clear as many of these zombies out as we can. The gates are still closed so what you see is what we’ve got. Conserve ammunition. Relax and aim. You can fire when ready.”
The first shots were popping as soon as he finished and soon the cold, drizzly night was filled with a constant stream of gunfire.
It took nearly two hours before the last zombie dropped. Marksmen, most of the shooters, were not. My shoulder felt swollen and tender as I packed it in. Forty kills were mine. Not bad for an old man with an old gun.
Volunteers went out into the carnage with shovels, axes, sharpened poles and whatever else they could find to poke holes into skulls. Just to make sure. I stayed sitting in my chair watching them, resting a bit and willing my locked-up back into motion. When it felt like I could finally move again, I headed down to the cafeteria for a fresh cup of coffee.
Marley and Mary were there. Both gave me looks that seemed to ask if I was ready. A heavy weight settled into my bones as I filled my mug with steaming coffee and had a long drink. The best I could do was nod in their direction, fill up my cup again, and walk out.
The command center was buzzing when I stepped inside. Olora and George were the calm eye of a verbal storm as they stood in the room’s center. I wandered up to stand beside them and offered my mug to George. He looked down and shook his head. I shrugged and had another sip.
“We lost three more guards from one of the rooftop Posts during the gunfire. Jaeger must have hit them when all the noise masked her shot. Runners just found their bodies a minute ago.”
My heart sank when he spoke. Not so much due to the words, but because of how he said them. There was a lot of sadness in his tone and red-eyes. The exhaustion must’ve been damn near crippling by then.
“I should’ve left her alone,” He whispered softly, sharing a private moment of regret with me.
Olora turned her head to face us both and frowned. “She was a threat to our lives. A psychopath with military training and potentially infectious blood. It would have only been a matter of time before she attacked us.”
It was right then that I realized what had happened. Clear as a bell the picture came to me in one of those Ah Ha moments. George wasn’t the bad guy here. He was just some poor shmuck that got fed bad data and pushed to make bad decisions.
It was all Olora.
She’d been the one that warned of the Fort’s plans to attack. I doubted they’d ever been real. She’d been the one that urged George to ambush Jaeger. Jaeger, who’d only wanted to be left alone. And as my watch beeped once when eleven o’clock chimed in, I knew she was the reason George was about to die.
It felt like cold water just got flushed inside my colon.
More than half the room’s personnel had grown silent and were turned around in their seat watching the three of us. Other than George, I was the only one armed.
Like most soldiers, I’d done things in Viet Nam that I wish I could forget. Horrible things that made me cry when the adrenaline and bloodlust wore off. Things that still haunted my nightmares.
I wished that same fog of war would’ve covered my eyes at that moment.
The revolver was in my hand and pressed against the small of George’s back a heartbeat later. His handgun was in my other hand and pointed at Olora a few seconds after that. Rage ripped across her face, the first real emotion I’d ever seen from her. But George just nodded and offered me a sad smile.
That damn near broke my heart.
I took a step back and pocketed George’s gun, using my own to cover them both just as the door opened. Marley stepped inside with a gun of her own and moved to stand beside me.
“Jaeger will kill us all if we don’t hand you over.” She nodded my way.
“Yeah. I know.” George replied softly. His eyes never left my own.
They were both handcuffed and led out into the hallway where a dozen men and women waited. Two of the command room operators were trying to hail Jaeger. It took a little while before they got an answer. The whole group stepped outside into the misty rain and blood-soaked grass after that.
It was slow going until we got past all the bodies that littered the ground. Their shuffling feet and the steady rain had churned the ground into mud, making our footing treacherous and awkward. Olora tried to run when Marley slipped. Mary was right there, pressing her pistol against the woman’s forehead with a wicked grin.
George turned to me then and whispered, “I want you to do it, when the time comes. One solider to another. Don’t let that woman torture me.”
Damn if it didn’t feel like I might have a heart attack.
The grim procession slowly made its way to the front gate and stood there waiting for Jaeger to show up. I saw her hair first. Then her eyes.
A shiver went down my spine as she stepped into the light. She stood a bit shorter than me but somehow she seemed bigger than life. Black cargo pants were rolled up into tight cuffs just below her knees, leaving shins and bare feet exposed. A black tee-shirt, soaked from the rain, clung to her lean form and left horribly scared arms plain to see. It was her face that drew sharp breaths from everyone around me, myself included.
Those eyes were solid white. Worse than the zombies. Not a hint of color broke the surface and damn if I could tell where she was looking. Her face had several scars as well, making her look savage and dangerous. Stark white hair hung around that face in messy, uneven strips. Bits of bone were woven into a few.
She moved like liquid grace, slow and steady with some kinda fancy sub-machine gun in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I could see a huge scar across her throat that ran nearly from ear to ear when she stopped a few feet away and gave Marley an up nod of her chin.
“’Bout fuckin time,” Jaeger drawled, smoke drifting from her white lips and nostrils. The grin she offered made my blood run cold.
We all stood there for a minute, watching Jaeger smoke as she studied us. Eventually Mary cleared her throat and stepped forward a bit.
“We brought them. That means you’ll leave us alone?”
“It’s all I wanted Mary. I just wanted to be left alone. That was what I told George’s men when they came to my woods the first time. That’s what I’m tellin you all now. Stay outta my woods and leave me the fuck alone and I’ll do the same.” Jaeger shrugged and flicked her cigarette off into the darkness. “Who’s gonna be in charge now?”
George spoke up then, surprising everyone with his words. “Glen. He had nothing to do with any of this. He’s a good man.”
Heads nodded in agreement and any objections I got ready to make died in my throat when Jaeger stepped forward.
“Alright Glen. Mary and Marley there are my friends. They’re the only reasons I offered to stop in exchange for these two. They’re the only reasons I left most of your place intact.” She smiled, leaning in closer until our noses nearly touched. “And they’re the only reasons any of you are still alive. Remember that.”
I nodded and held onto George’s arm when Marley tried to push him towards Jaeger. Olora stumbled and fell to the ground at Jaeger’s bare feet when Mary did the same.
“I’ll do George. You can do whatever you want with Olora. She’s the reason all this happened.”
Jaeger arched an eyebrow but didn’t object. Instead she reached down and lifted Olora up by the hair with one hand. The shorter woman’s feet weren’t touching the ground as solid white eyes stared at me expectantly.
“I’m sorry this happened,” He said, head turned to the gathered group. “Hopefully the initial good I did in getting everything put together will be what’s remembered. Not my mistakes.” George nodded towards me then and dropped to his knees. “Go ahead Glen. Do what you gotta do.”
I lost my breakfast, lunch, dinner and most of the coffee after the gun bucked in my hand and George’s lifeless body fell face first into the mud. Every joint and bone hurt something fierce and I don’t think I’d ever felt that old and hollow before. Marley wrapped an arm around my shoulders and helped me stand after I’d emptied my stomach. A lot of people were crying behind me.
Jaeger lit another cigarette.
“The lug-nuts for the vehicles are under a rock near the back gate.”
That’s all she said before turning around and carrying a kicking and screaming Olora off into the night. The rest of us stood there, looking at each other like idiots for awhile after she’d gone.
Eventually we couldn’t hear Olora screaming anymore.