Apocalypse origins, p.26
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.26

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  Greg cursed as he heard the sound of gunshots from above. The infected howled and threw themselves against the door they'd just barricaded. "That's not gonna hold for long," James said.

  Greg pointed towards the stairway. "That's the only way up with the power out. We can hold up there, they can only come a few at a time."

  James nodded and led the way towards the stairwell. In another time, he might look around the building and take note of what he saw. Maybe try to figure out what kind of business this place did before the Collapse. That wasn't important right now though. Right now everything he saw was evaluated on its usefulness as cover or a potential hiding spot. They reached the elevator and James instructed four of their men to remain behind.

  "You guys stay here and keep the infected off our backs. Blades only unless you get overwhelmed. The more we're shooting the more infected are gonna show up."

  James led the way up the stairs. "We'll have to check the second floor first, just in case. I'm assuming they’re on the third but we don't want to be surprised."

  Greg nodded as they reached the second floor landing. James led the way inside and they spent the next few minutes checking every cubicle and office for any sign of their targets. When that was done they headed back towards the stairs, James had an apologetic look on his face. He could tell that Greg wanted nothing more than to tear this place apart.

  "It's fine," Greg said. "We had to be sure." They headed back into the stairwell and took the remaining stairs to the third floor. 

  James paused at the landing and glanced behind him to make sure everyone was ready. He leaned against the wall and pulled the door open and flinched back as a hail of bullets sailed past. He cursed in frustration, they were in a bad spot here. They could lay down suppressive fire and enter the room but there was no guarantee that there was adequate cover close by. They were effectively pinned. The one bright side was that the stairwell was constructed from brick which meant he was relatively safe where he was, he didn't have to worry about them shooting him through the wall.

  Greg looked up the stairs in frustration. They were so close but they might as well be miles away. His mood brightened as an idea struck him. "James," he whispered.

  "What?" James asked as he glanced towards him.

  "I'm gonna head back down, look for another way up."

  "We were just there," he protested, "I didn't see a second stairwell."

  "Maybe we missed it," Greg countered. "I'm gonna check." Greg headed back down the stairs and motioned for Jackson to follow him.

  "I don't think there's another stairwell," Jackson said as they entered the second floor.

  "I don't think there is either," Greg replied.

  "What's your plan then?"

  "This," Greg said as he stopped in front of the elevator.

  Jackson looked thoughtful for a moment, "That could work as long as the car isn't on the third floor."

  "Only one way to find out." Greg used his machete to pry an opening between the elevator doors and then pulled them all the way open. He placed his hand on the wall and leaned out as far as he could. To his left he saw a ladder bolted to the wall. That was perfect, they could use that to go up. He looked up and saw that the way was clear, that meant the elevator was on the first floor.

  "There's a ladder here just to the left," Greg explained.

  "What about the noise when we get up top?" Jackson asked. "They'll probably here the door open."

  Greg nodded and grabbed his walkie. "James," he called into it.

  "Yeah?" came the reply of few minutes later.

  "I'm gonna contact you in a few minutes. I found a way up. I’ll need you to lay down some fire to cover the noise I make."

  "You're not doing something crazy are you?"

  "Of course not, it's perfectly safe."

  "Alright, let me know."

  The men carefully made their way into the shaft and climbed up, doing their best not to make any noise on the ladder. When they reached the third floor, Greg contacted James and a moment later the sound of rifle fire filled the air. Greg carefully stepped onto the ledge the doors rested on and used Jackson's knife to pry and opening. He pulled the doors apart far enough to slip through and stepped to the other side. The way was clear. They were in area filled with cubicles. From the other side of the room Greg could hear James exchanging fire with the kidnappers. He held the doors open for Jackson who slipped through a few moments later. Kneeling down they made their way towards the gunfight. Greg peeked around the corner of a cubicle and saw two men kneeling behind cover occasionally firing into the stairwell.

  To the left he saw the women sitting on the floor. Fortunately, they looked unhurt for the most part. Standing over them was another kidnapper. Greg wondered if he was the one that had grabbed Carol. Greg leaned out and fired several shots at the men sitting in cover, he hit them both in the chest but they didn't go down. Were they wearing some sort of armor? James used the distraction to lead his men into the room. As he was entering the third man took off running.

  Greg glanced at the girls to make sure they were safe then took off after the runner, Jackson hot on his heels. James had things under control there. The two men in cover had put their hands up as soon as James had entered the room. Greg followed the man to a door that had a sign reading Roof Access. Greg pushed through the door and saw a set of stairs heading up. He took them two at a time and stepped through a door that led to the roof. Two men popped up from behind an air conditioning unit and Greg quickly ducked back inside the doorway.

  "Give me some cover fire and I'll try to flank them," Jackson said. "I don't want that guy getting away."

  Greg nodded and leaned out to squeeze off several shots. As the men ducked back behind their cover Jackson sprinted out and towards the right. The men attempted to respond but more shots from Greg forced them back into cover. The two men realized they were being flanked and decided to make a run for it. Shots from Jackson put one of them down while the other managed to find another piece of roof equipment to hide behind. "Go!" Jackson yelled. "I'll deal with him!"

  Greg nodded and took off across the roof. He saw his target standing in an open area looking towards the south. What was he looking for? Greg gave himself a mental shrug and he approached, it didn't matter what he was doing because he was about to die. Greg fired off a round and struck the man in the chest. The man spun around but stayed standing.

  "You'll have to do better!" he called. "Top of the line kevlar right here"

  "It hurt though didn't it? Greg asked. He started firing and emptied the remains of his clip into the man's chest. He then sprinted forward, easily covering the distance as the man reeled in pain. He unleashed a vicious overhead strike that the man barely managed to parry with a combat knife. Greg didn't let up and rained down blow after blow until the man fell to his knees. A kick to the man's hand sent the knife flying away and Greg kicked him a second time in the chest which left him sprawling on his back.

  He raised his machete for the finishing blow when a thump thump thump sound reached his ears. Looking south he saw a helicopter heading towards him. So that had been the man's plan. They had an escape planned when they fled to this building. The helicopter quickly reached them and turned so that's its side was facing them. The door slid open and Greg saw a long gun poke out. He took off running and dove behind an a.c. unit just as a torrent of bullets struck just where he had been standing. Greg peeked out and saw the man grab hold of a rope ladder. He quickly reloaded his pistol and unloaded the clip in his direction. He probably wouldn't hit him, the helicopter was already making its way south but the final bullet struck home and the man was barely able to hold onto the ladder. It wasn't a kill shot but it would give the man something to remember him by.

  He waited until the helicopter was some distance away before he left cover, just in case they had decided to double back. James ran up then, with everyone else in tow behind him. "You okay? I swear I heard a helicopter."


  "You did," Greg replied. "The man I was chasing escaped on it."

  "That was close," Jackson said. 

  Greg nodded and walked towards Carol, pulling her into a tight hug. "You okay?"

  "I'll be fine," she replied. "I'm so glad you made it."

  "I was right behind you the whole time."

  "We've got a piece of business to deal with," James said.

  "What's that?" Greg asked looking in his direction.

  "We've got survivors." He nodded towards two of his men and they tossed a man to the ground. The other two captives carried themselves with some measure of dignity and knelt on the ground. They were probably assuming they were about to be killed.

  "Please don't kill me!" he begged as he rose to his knees.

  Greg raised an eyebrow, "He doesn't seem like those other guys we fought."

  "That's because it's Jeremy," Shirley said with disgust in her voice.

  "Ah," Greg replied. He glanced at one of the guards. "Give her your sidearm." The guard complied and Shirley looked at him questioningly.

  Greg shrugged, "You decide what you want done with him. I'd have him killed regardless but thought you might want the honors."

  "Very much," Shirley replied as she cocked the gun.

  "Wait!" Jeremy begged. "I can be useful. I can tell you things! Things about the men you fought."

  Greg shrugged, "I know all I need to. They attacked us and we killed them. It's done."

  "It's not done," Jeremy replied shaking his head. "There's a man. His name is William Dray and he's the one responsible for all this."

  "All this what?" Greg asked curiosity growing.

  "The infection. Everything that's gone wrong."

  Greg blinked. Was this guy serious? He knew the person responsible for everything they were dealing with? And what did he mean it's not done? He glanced at the other two captives to see if their expression would betray anything but couldn’t get a read on them.

  “I'm sorry, Shirley. I need you to wait a little bit."

  Shirley nodded, "I understand. If he's telling the truth this is pretty important."

  "Remember what I said, Shirley."

  "About what?" she asked.

  "We don't keep prisoners."

  She smiled grimly and walked away from the group. Jeremy potentially had important info but she didn't want to hear his sniveling voice right now. 

  "Alright," Greg said, "start talking."

  "You'll let me go?" Jeremy asked.

  "Maybe, maybe not. There's a chance you get to live if you tell me something useful."

  Jeremy nodded enthusiastically, not seeing the grim look in the people around him. They already knew the man's fate was sealed. They remembered Greg's speech when he said they wouldn't be keeping prisoners.

  "The man is William Dray. He's a billionaire out of Emerald Falls. He orchestrated everything."
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