Apocalypse origins, p.38
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.38

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  Greg peeked around the tree and saw a guard running towards his position. Greg leaned out a bit and made eye contact before returning to his position. The man slid to a stop next to him and Greg pointed to a nearby tree. The man nodded his understanding and took position. Greg heard a few more shots and then silence. 

  "Keep an eye out!" someone called. "He couldn't have gone far."

  Greg kept perfectly still and hoped his men were doing the same. As the sound of their footsteps neared him he quietly moved around the tree so he wouldn't be seen. He risked a look out and saw a large group of men, all dressed in military gear. He waited a few moments until the bulk of the group was in front of him and then opened fire. At his signal, the rest of his mean leaned out of cover and did the same. Dozens of men dropped in the first volley and were soon joined by their fellows as Greg and his men continued firing.

  “Ambush! Find Cover!” one of their number yelled.

  Their enemies scattered and found nearby trees to hide behind. They exchanged fire for several minutes and Greg cursed in frustration. He looked around and saw James using a nearby tree for cover.

  “James!” he called. James looked in his direction and he continued, “This is no good. We’re outnumbered. We can’t sit here trading fire all day.”

  James nodded and got the attention of some nearby guards. He led the group off into the woods and Greg knew he needed to keep the fight going to buy him some time to get into position. The next few minutes passed slowly. Greg would lean out, fire a few shots and then get back in cover as the enemy returned fire. This continued until he heard gunfire coming from another direction.

  James must be in place, now they could end this. The screams he heard told him that James had been successful in flanking the enemy. This continued for a few minutes until gunfire from the other side stopped as they realized they were in a terrible position. 

  Men threw themselves to the ground in hopes of being spared and just like that, it was over. "We surrender!" one of them called out. "Don't shoot!"

  "Throw us your weapons!" Greg shouted.

  The survivors hurriedly complied and a pile of weaponry was soon formed. Greg looked at the pile from his position and saw rifles, sidearms, and other items he couldn't quite make out from this distance.

  "On your knees, hands behind your head," he called.

  The men complied and Greg and his men left cover, weapons aimed at their targets.

  "Who's in charge?" Greg asked.

  "I am," a man replied. Greg looked and saw a man that appeared to be in his mid-forties. "Ryan Reel," he said.

  "Who sent you?"

  Reel sighed, "Dray. William Dray sent me."

  "Give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you right now," Greg said. "One of you escaped last time and I find an army on my doorstep weeks later."

  "I've been played," Reel said.

  "What?" Greg asked.

  "The infection you've seen, it's all over the U.S. All over the world really. I was in charge of the west. Long story short, it didn't work out and I had to come here. Dray told me I'd be able to take you out and I could keep your town for myself."

  "That just makes me want to kill you more," Greg replied.

  "I can help you," Reel said.

  "Help me how? You would've killed us given the chance."

  "True," Reel replied, "but I'm practical man. I can clearly see that I've lost and I'm trying to bargain for my life."

  "What can you do for me?" Greg asked.

  "I can buy you time. You've got a nice sized force here but Dray has way more. This trick won't work against what he can bring against you. I can give you time to build up your strength so that when you go against Dray you'll be ready."

  "How?"

  "Let me go back. Dray sent me here to keep me out of the way. I'll go back, tell him that I killed you and that your town wasn't to my liking."

  "We were obviously being followed for you to find us here. How do we know he just won't send more?" Greg asked.

  "He might, that's possible. But if you let me go back he'll be busy with me. I intend to take the tower from him. If I succeed, I'll stay in Illinois and leave you alone. If I fail, then I've bought you some time."

  Greg sighed, "James? What do you think?"

  "I'd rather finish the lot of them but he's kinda making sense. Dray is gonna come at us and we could use some time to prepare. Not that this is all we've got mind you, but it wouldn't hurt to be safe."

  Greg nodded and thought that was a good move on James' part. No need to admit this was most of their military strength. Greg didn't trust this Reel but maybe it wouldn't hurt to have someone distracting Dray. "Alright," he said. "I suppose that makes sense. You can go but all your weapons are staying."

  Reel nodded, "That's understandable. Thank you."

  Greg nodded and Reel and his remaining men headed back the way they came as quickly as they could. They were about twenty men remaining by Greg's estimate. "Have some men follow them, make sure they leave."

  James nodded and started calling names. 

  ***

  Reel walked as swiftly as he legs would carry him. That had been a close call. Add this to the list of indignities Dray had put him through. He'd walked directly into ambush! Only his smooth talking had seen him survive the day. He should've aborted the plan when they had been fired upon. He saw now that those men had been buying time for the rest of their forces to set up the ambush. He'd miscalculated, thought that a bunch of survivors couldn't possibly out maneuver his highly trained men. He'd survive this though. He'd return to Emerald Falls and take it over from within. Surely he could subvert some of Dray's men to his cause. Then, he'd return and crush this upstart. The man thought he'd buy him some time and that would be true to some extent. But he'd return and crush him once Dray was out of the way and the tower was his.

  ***

  The Gregorian Guard returned to a hero's welcome. They'd radioed ahead to announce their victory and everyone was back in the streets by the time they arrived. Greg walked at the head and Brian knew he'd made the right decision. Everyone quieted as the guard came to a halt and Greg took a few steps forward.

  Brian watched as Greg came to stand in front of him. He had to admit the man cut a dashing figure the way he stood with his hand resting on the hilt of his blade like a king of old. Brian nodded to himself, that was it right there. This man wasn't a mayor or governor or anything like that. He wasn't a politician at all. This man saw what needed doing and did it. You could either go along with it or not. Brian got down on one knee. "Kneel before your king!" he called out.

  There were a few moments where people processed what he said then one by one, everyone got down on one knee. Greg looked around and saw that everyone was kneeling, the people of Lakeside and the guard alike. Everyone from camp was here as well. He caught Carol's eye and she smiled. He hadn't been expecting this but it was fitting. Hadn't he led them here just as he said he would? Hadn't he fought to keep them safe?

  "On behalf of Lakeside," Brian began, "we accept your authority as our king. Lead, and we'll follow."

  A simple oath but it got the point across and Greg knew it was genuine. He'd have no problem here, these were now his people. "I accept your oath," he called out in a loud voice. "Now hear my oath to you. So long as I breathe I will fight for you. I will purge the infected from our land and I will destroy any who come against us. I will give you peace. Not the peace of cooperating with those who would hurt us. But peace in that no one will dare to come against us!"

  In the silence that followed James shouted, "Long live the king!" A moment later the shout was taken up by all. "Long live the King! Long live the King!"

  As their voices washed over him Greg smiled. He'd had no idea that his life would take this direction. Who would have thought he'd lead a ragtag group of survivors to safety? But he knew it was right. This was his destiny. He was king.

  ***

  End Book 1

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