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SINGLE TREE: Afloat

October 26, 2019 Leave a comment

LATITUDE 32.511639, LONGITUDE -130.589518

 

“Stop being such a little bitch, Kimosabe. Get on with living.”

Victor’s voice echoed about in Corbett’s head as he lay on the single stateroom’s narrow bunk. There was no port hole in the room’s side, so the chamber was as dark as a crypt. He knew where he was, and he was aware of the vague noises of a ship at sea—pumps, air, machinery, running generators—but the only sound he could pay attention to right then existed only in his head. Victor Kiruk’s deep, robust, dignified voice telling him to grow a pair and go on with his life.

Get out of my head, Victor. You’re dead.

You will be too, Kimosabe, Victor replied. Sooner rather than later if you can’t let go of Single Tree.

Corbett snarled to himself in the darkness. While he had slept aboard Norton’s yacht, with its well-appointed forepeak stateroom, cherry wood joinery, en suite head, and bright lights, he’d never heard Victor speak to him. But after moving aboard one of his own vessels, which were infinitely darker, much more cramped despite their size, and general institutional design, the voice of Victor Kiruk had come alive. Speaking to him in the man’s usual rational, measured cadence. Counseling life over death. Sage words of wisdom, especially since Barry Corbett had spent no small fortune trying to defend his birthplace from the dead hordes, only to have it all ripped away at the very last moment. Victor, had he still been alive, would have advised these same perceptions. But Victor was dead.

So Victor’s ghost spoke to him instead, using the veil of sleep as its medium.

Corbett switched on the bunk side lamp and blinked against the sudden flood of LED brilliance. The small stateroom was now fully awash in harsh, sterile white light. The shadows had been vanquished in an instant; and with them, Victor’s voice disappeared as well. Corbett was left alone in his own head, which was just how he liked it.

He pulled on his clothes. Jeans, t-shirt, denim work shirt, sturdy boots, and finally his battered USMC cap. Victor’s ruminations could be entertained another night. According to his watch, it was dawn. And dawn meant work.

Though he might be as old as a dinosaur, Barry Corbett still had a town to liberate.

It was time to get to it.

 

As always, this is presented unedited and unproofed, and no guarantee what you read here will make it into the finished product.

THESE DEAD LANDS: DESOLATION Released!

October 22, 2019 3 comments

It’s here, it’s here! Join Hastings, the Ballantines, Diana, Kenny, Guerra, Hartman, Reader, Tharinger, Stilley, and the ever-taciturn MSG Slater as they take on the reekers!

THESE DEAD LANDS: DESOLATION–Hastings Gets Hasty

October 17, 2019 Leave a comment

The convoy continued moving south towards Site R. It rolled past the town of Orrtanna before pressing on through Fairfield. Fairfield was the last sizeable community on their way to PA 116, which would take them the remainder of the way to Site R. As the convoy pulled up to the intersection with PA 116, Jones pointed off to the right of the vehicle.

“Hey look, sir! There’s a post office. You want me to stop?”

Hastings looked over at Jones who had a huge smile on his face. “No, Jones—Slater made sure I stocked up on stamps at the last one. Good one, though. I’ll give you that.”

As Jones slowed the vehicle to make the right turn at the T intersection, he pointed at a large cluster of vehicles parked on a gravel lot. They were all neatly lined up, and all had prices on their windshields. Everything from small, beat-up compacts to pickup trucks on lift kits with giant tires were represented—there was even a 1980s vintage red Corvette. Inside the lot, a small group of reekers turned toward the noise of the oncoming column. Their slack faces became only vaguely more animated when they saw the hulking, cliff-nosed MRAPs turning onto the street.

“Hey, check out the crowd,” Jones said. “They must be having a hell of a sale. I’ll bet they’re offering zero down with a current LES and a guaranteed twenty-eight percent interest rate for seventy-two months!”

Both Hastings and Jones laughed out loud. It was the kind of deal most new privates fell victim to in military towns when purchasing a new car or other high-dollar items.

After rolling past the dealership, the convoy entered the Borough of Fairfield. It crossed over Middle Creek and the road’s name changed to Main Street. As always, the two-lane blacktop road was lined with homes on each side. Hastings worried about that. It was going to be like running a gauntlet with not many places to go, given the size of the MRAPs. The side streets were little more than narrow alleyways between the houses, which offered little opportunity for maneuvering off the road, presuming they could even manage the tight turns. Reekers began to appear now, stepping out onto the road from between the houses. The column made a lot of noise, as stealth wasn’t one of its attributes. At first only a few zombies appeared, but as Jones kept pulling the convoy forward, the number of reekers grew steadily larger. From behind them, Hastings heard short, sporadic bursts of gunfire. He knew the zombies were charging the column, and the softer vehicles had to open up on the threats to hold them back. It was a lot easier to damage a Humvee than an MRAP or a five-ton truck.

As the convoy approached the intersection of Main Street and Fifth Avenue, Jones called out. “Sir, you see that up there?”

A block or so ahead, the entire street was full of reekers. More importantly, there was a multitude of abandoned cars and trucks. This had apparently been an evacuation route, and the civilians fleeing the apocalypse had apparently driven right into a wall of the dead. But the zombies weren’t the problem. While the MRAPs and larger vehicles could crush their way through the dead, the tightly packed vehicles would be a different story. Jones had to slow down almost to a stop; otherwise, the MRAP would have traveled right into the blockage. The towering MRAP caught the attention of every reeker in the street, and they shambled toward it as of one mind. A shambling flood of dead, necrotic flesh and a never-ending appetite for human flesh and blood.

Hastings looked at his map, then quickly to his left and right. He pointed to the alley-like street to the right of the MRAP’s cliff-like nose. “Turn right here! Follow it to the end, then hook a left. That should get us around them.” He raised his voice. “Slater! Let the rest of the convoy know we’re taking a detour. It’s gonna be tight, so everyone needs to make sure they don’t bunch up in case we have to back out.”

“Copy that,” Slater yelled in response.

Jones turned the vehicle down Fifth Avenue, which was more like a narrow driveway alongside a house than a legitimate road. The MRAP barely fit down its narrow width and Jones had to drive slightly to the right on the overgrown grass of a house’s lawn. Tree branches scraped across the top of the vehicle, and Hastings worried about the .50-caliber machine gun in the turret. But it would be worse to crash along the house immediately to the vehicle’s left, so Jones had made the right call.

The road ended a few hundred feet down into another T. A huge, open agriculture field lay directly before the MRAP, and to the left was a chain-link fence surrounding a small children’s playground area. Jones cranked the steering wheel to the left and continued to drive, paralleling Main Street. The vehicle was now behind a church and the house of worship’s parking lot which was also full of incapacitated automobiles, piles of garbage, and temporary shelters that had long ago been overrun by the dead. Zombies poured around the church, zeroing in on the convoy’s new route. Ahead was another intersection, and Hastings consulted his map as Jones continued on.

“Keep going straight,” Hastings shouted as he scanned the area outside of the vehicle. Jones continued down the side street, still paralleling the town’s main drag. The road became very narrow and soon they were driving behind people’s backyards. Low hanging tree branches struck the MRAP’s turret and top in a cacophony that was clearly audible above the roaring diesel engine and the whir of the MRAP’s tall, knobbed tires. A small group of reekers stepped out from behind some trees, and Jones accelerated to meet them. Just before the figures disappeared before the vehicle’s tall nose, Hastings believed they had been an entire family. A man, a woman, and perhaps two teenage daughters mindlessly threw themselves before the speeding MRAP, their clothes torn and stained black with dried blood. The MRAP bumped slightly as the front tires rolled over the corpses, then again a microsecond later as the rear set of tires did their job. No doubt all the other vehicles following behind would roll them over again. The machine-gun fire from behind was constant now—short, controlled, continuous bursts was all that could be heard along with intermittent radio traffic and Slater giving directions to the rest of the convoy.

Jones paused the vehicle at the next intersection. The road ahead looked even narrower. “Getting tight here, sir—which way? It doesn’t look any better ahead, left or right!”

Hastings looked to the left, back at Main Street. The horde of reekers still pursued them, boiling onto the side streets. They were still more than a half block away, but there were runners in the mix—they’d catch up to them in no time if they stayed put.

“Take the right and follow it around,” Hastings said. “It should come out back on the main drag when it ends. Hopefully we’ll be able to make another right and get back on course.”

Jones wasted no time in making the turn and moving the convoy away from the reekers. Behind, the machine-gun fire rose in pitch as the Humvees and five-tons found themselves under direct attack. They were in the center of the convoy, and there was no way to switch them out now—they would just have to soldier on. The road they turned onto began to curve around to the left, bringing them back to their original direction of travel. The street was wider now, growing back into two lanes of blacktop. The houses became more spread out, with wider yards separating them from one another. Aside from a few reekers in the street, Hastings saw the way ahead was a clear straight shot. Jones saw that too, and he pressed down on the accelerator to pick up speed and get the hell out of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, as quickly as possible.

“Slater, how we looking back there?” Hastings yelled over his shoulder.

“So far, so good. Sounds like a few vehicles sideswiped a few things but all are still mobile. We just need to keep moving and not slow down—we’re dragging a mighty long tail behind us.”

“You heard him, Jones … keep it rolling. Take the left when we get to the intersection ahead. It should take us back to the main road.”

Jones barely slowed down to make the left turn onto a road called Beechwood Drive, and the MRAP listed drunkenly to one side. There were some shouts of surprise from the back, along with the clatter of unrestrained gear shifting under the centrifugal force caused by Jones’s speeding, sharp turn.

“Safely, Jones!” Hastings cautioned. “Safely—we don’t want to end up on our side!”

“Sorry, sir.” Jones continued to the intersection with Main Street and paused momentarily to quickly scan left and right. To their front was the Fairfield area school and a huge parking lot filled with vehicles … and even more reekers.

“Oh, fuck me!” Jones turned the vehicle and accelerated as the reekers swung around toward the MRAP.

“Slater, let the convoy know to expect a heavy reeker presence when they get back on Main Street at the school.” A long burst of .50-cal drowned out the last part of Hastings’s sentence as they sped past the school. The MRAP in trail had already opened up. More weapons added their own salvos to the din, including the muted thunder of an Mk 19 grenade launcher.

“I think they track that, sir,” Slater yelled back.

The convoy continued down the road past the school. The roadway remained two-lane blacktop, which was a relief for Hastings and, he suspected, Jones. Threading an MRAP down a single-lane street was zero fun when the heat was on. Small businesses were on either side of the street, and Hastings verified they were getting close to the edge of town. The sounds of gunfire eased up, then ceased altogether.

“Jones, ease up a bit,” he said. “Let the column tighten up some.”

Jones took his foot off the accelerator. “Roger that, sir. I’ll keep us at around thirty. Okay?”

“That’ll do fine, Jones. Thanks.” Hastings heard Slater still talking on the radio in back. The sound of the engine, the whine of the radios and their fans, and the muted conversation among the troops behind him felt like a deafening silence now that it was over and the gunfire had stopped. Hastings looked back at the navigation system and zoomed in and compared what he saw on the display with his map.

“We’re coming up on a Y intersection. Stay to the right fork. I think it’s called Jacks Mountain Road. Couple hundred meters ahead.”

“Copy that, sir.”

Jones slowed the MRAP as it approached the fork in the road. He guided the vehicle to the right and peered out the driver’s window. Hastings leaned forward in his seat and looked to the left as well. He found what he was looking for: the street sign. Jacks Mountain Road. And right behind it was a sign that exclaimed, “Welcome to Carroll Valley Founded 1974.”

The convoy continued down the road for a solid ten minutes, rolling past small houses and farms until the column was once again surrounded by open agricultural fields that were slowly returning to the wild.

Hastings yelled back to Slater, “Slater … tell the column we’re stopping, but to stay buttoned up. I just want to get a SITREP and make sure we’ve got everyone we started out with.”

“I’ll let them know. Stand by.”

“Go ahead and bring us a halt, Jones. Right here in the middle of the road is fine.”

“Yes, sir.” Jones slowed the vehicle to a stop in the middle of the road.

The high school parking lot had been one massive field of reekers when Hastings’s MRAP had pulled up to the intersection. With the rest of the convoy behind him, he was sure the reekers had swarmed the road en masse. Now that they were clear, they needed to make sure they didn’t lose anyone and that all the vehicles were together. He’d monitored the common net and had heard all vehicles report in, but he might have missed some in all the excitement. Calling a halt to verify readiness was expected.

Slater walked up from the back after a moment. “Hey, Captain. Looks like we still have everyone. Several of the vehicles report some minor damage, but the thin skins took a beating. At least one vehicle needs to be checked, the driver thinks there might be a reeker stuck beneath the undercarriage that he’s been dragging since the school. Everything else sounds pretty cosmetic damage. If you’re okay with it, I’d like to have every vehicle drop a guy to do a walk around and make sure we’re still G to G.”

Hastings looked back at Slater. “Ah, G to G?”

“Yeah, good to go. What are you … new?” Slater answered with a smirk.

Hastings snorted. “Oh. Right. Anyway, yeah. I’m good with that. But tell them to make it quick. We’re not very far away from Site R, and I’d like to get there while we still have light.”

“No problem, sir. Uh, about the approach to Site R. It’s a narrow access road to get up there, and if it’s a dry hole, that’s going to be a colossal pain in the ass to get the entire convoy backed down.”

Hastings thought about that. “I’ll pass that on to War Eagle, with the recommendation that the main body waits off the access road. We’ll take Eagle One and his detail up and go from there. Cool?”

Slater nodded. “I’ll let all the vehicle TCs know that. Once we know we’re G to G, we can radio for the main body to join us.”

“All right. See to that inspection, and I’ll have a word with Victor.”

As always, the above is offered unedited and may or may not appear in the final product.

These Dead Lands: Desolation arrives on October 22, 2019! Get ready for some zompoc carnage!

THESE DEAD LANDS: IMMOLATION Now on Sale!

And for a paltry 99¢ at that. Over five hundred pages of explosive action, tense drama, and thousands upon thousands of hungry zombies looking to crash the buffet line. Get it while you can at this price, then snap up These Dead Lands: Desolation which will be released on October 22, 2019.

It’s the end of summer, after all. If it doesn’t go out with a bang, let it go out with a savage growl.

THESE DEAD LANDS: DESOLATION–Even The Retard Has A SAW

The things people need to talk about when they’re standing on death row!

“Hey, Ballantine.”

He turned and found Lieutenant Robinson walking up on his position. Ballantine lowered his field glasses and faced her with a salute that she perfunctorily returned.

“What’s happening, LT?” he asked.

“Nothing. Which is all good by me. What do you think?”

“Hey, the less shooting we have to do, the better.”

Robinson nodded toward the head of the column. “Your fam. They all right?”

“Last I checked, everyone was good to go.”

Robinson looked out across the field. “Gotta be some shit, right? Your family right here, in the middle of all of this?”

Ballantine nodded. “Yeah, well. It is what it is. I’m grateful they’re where I can check on them.”

“Yeah. My people are all down south, in the Carolinas.”

“Well, that’s Third Infantry territory. Hard chargers, those bastards. I’m sure your relations are good to go, LT.”

“We’ll see about that,” Robinson replied. “I don’t mean nothing by this. I just wanted to tell you, I get what it is seeing your people so danger close. It’s gotta be tough.”

“It is. But again… it is what it is.” Ballantine raised his field glasses to his eyes again. “I look at it this way. I do my job now, they’ll be good.”

“So you’re telling me to stop gabbing with you?”

“Not at all, LT. You’re in charge here.”

Robinson fell silent for a moment as she considered that. Then: “You notice anything peculiar about the reekers that attacked us out of Chicago?”

Ballantine considered that for a minute as he continued to surveil the field. “Um… they were all dead?”

“They were mostly all white,” Robinson said.

Ballantine considered what she’d said for a moment. “Not sure what to make of that, LT. You have a point you’re trying to make?”

“White people in Chicago depended on the local government to protect them. You know, urbanites in the city. Not so many guns to go around, right? But in the south side, where the blacks were? They had weapons. Maybe not entirely legal or anything, but they had the means. The means to defend themselves.”

“Okay,” Ballantine said. He didn’t know what the woman beside him was getting at. So the reekers were white? They were still dead as doornails.

“Taking away firearms is one of the things that’s going to count against us moving forward,” Robinson said. “It’s uncomfortable for us to have armed civilians in the column, but they need to be able to defend themselves.”

“I think that’s a great idea,” Ballantine replied.

“But what if the guy or girl holding a rifle was a gangbanger or a drug distributor?” Robinson asked. “To be more direct, black folks generally occupy a lower rung on the ladder of society… so they have to keep weapons illegally, while the white folks up in Chicago itself depended on the police to protect them. They got the wrong end of the deal. You agree?”

“LT, is this an important discussion to have right now?”

“Maybe not. But in the future? Yeah, it’s going to deserve some merit. Right?”

“Right on that,” Ballantine said. “Everyone needs to be able to defend themselves, no matter what. Like they said, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

“A lot of the civilians with us aren’t armed. I’m going to make the case to Captain Bellara that that needs to change. If I need you, are you with me?”

“All of my people are armed,” Ballantine said. “Anyone who’s an adult has a weapon. I’d imagine that should be the same all up and down the line. What if someone gets separated from the column? They’ll need to be able to fight their way back to us. Right?”

“Right,” Robinson said, but there was surprise in her voice. “You don’t have any issues with, say, a black man being issued a rifle?”

Ballantine snorted. “Ma’am, in the very same MRAP where my wife and kids sit, a crazy Asian stripper’s slinging a short-barreled rifle. Trust me, I have no problem with saner people gaining access to firearms.” He pointed down the column’s length quickly. “And about a hundred meters downrange, one of the stupidest soldiers I’ve ever known has access to a SAW. He’s black, but that’s not the consideration here. The fact that the rest of the troops in my unit consider him to be mentally challenged at best is the real concern—I mean, we gave a mentally deficient soldier control of a weapon that can cut down twenty people per second. That has to mean something. Right?”

Tomorrow on B&N Nook: EARTHFALL 2

On August 30, my novel Earthfall 2: The Mission Continues debuts on the Barnes and Noble NOOK platform. For the past five or six years, I’ve been pretty much hanging out only on Amazon. As of late, I’ve been expanding my works to other platforms for additional exposure. I’ll also be pushing my paperback products further into the mainstream, as I now have a fairly large backlist. So if you’ve been waiting for my books to pop up in Walmart and airport kiosks, you’ll soon have your chance to nab ’em there. That is, if you really want to.

THESE DEAD LANDS: DESOLATION–It’s All About Ball Juice

When former Marine Bill Everson has his way with the dainty lightfighters from 10th Mountain Division.

Together, the two men literally carried Martin around the MRAP to the passenger side. With Guerra’s help, they loaded him into the right seat and strapped him in. Guerra gently pulled Martin’s broken leg up onto his lap, saying something about elevation and swelling. This left the Cavalryman twisting to his left in the seat, but once Ballantine closed the door, he seemed comfortable enough.

“I’ll be driving this pig from now on,” Everson told Ballantine. “Tell your Army buddies in front of me that if they drive less than thirty miles an hour, they’re going to get an ass full of MRAP.”

“What, you only drive thirty miles per hour?” Ballantine asked.

“I do sixty,” Everson responded, hitching up his evil-looking rifle. “But in deference to a weaker sister service, I’m willing to halve my normal rate of advance due to leadership’s lack of testosterone.”

Ballantine laughed. “I’ll pass that on.”