After discovering Jeff and the children missing from the farm house, and reading his note, the group decided to go out after them. Dr. Winters, Trip, Sarah, David Norris, and Heidi stayed behind to pack the group’s gear and assist “Father” Kenneth in getting the community prepared to evacuate to Sanctuary as soon as the group returned from the military base. After James and Michael outlined what they knew about the base, the group that was going prepared to leave Snyder Farms. They would be using one of the community’s pick-up trucks and the one working truck they had recovered from the raider attack. As they were loading the trucks, Harry Ross and 8 others, including Ben Cooper and his parents, drove up in Harry’s Wagoneer and told James and Michael that they were leaving. The group allowed them to leave, though James hated seeing their entire supply team abandon like that.
Bryce, Mike, Thomas, Brooke, Alison, Sean, James, Michael, Caitlin, and Tim loaded into the two pickup trucks and drove the 6 miles back to the main road, where they hid the trucks in the woods and decided to hike the rest of the way to Fort Chaffee. The clouds were rolling in a rain was beginning to fall. They made about four miles on foot, staying in the woods whenever possible and avoiding roads, the rain now a heavy downpour, when they heard the sounds of an engine up ahead. They all took cover as the Apache flew low overhead, slowed to a stop and came back to hover over them, shining its lights directly on several of them for about 20 seconds before speeding off in the direction the group had come from. They immediately decided to move a couple of miles in a parallel direction before continuing on towards Fort Chafee.
About 2 miles away from the base, the group spotted a Humvee through the trees. It was canted into a ditch on the side of a dirt road and looked abandoned, until Sean, Caitlin, Mike, and Alison moved up and saw the dead things trapped inside. They almost left it alone, but then decided to loot it for supplies. Sean moved up and used Bryce’s crossbow to take out the thing in the driver’s seat, while Alison moved around the front of the Humvee. Automatic weapons fire immediately erupted from the trees ahead, stitching a pattern across the dirt road next to Alison, and barely missing Sean, instead spraying the windshield of the Humvee and ripping into the walker Sean had just dispatched. Sean immediately took cover behind the engine block and left front tire of the Humvee as the group, with night vision goggles, returned fire on their attackers. All three of them were taken out quickly.
Searching the bodies of the raiders, a teddy bear was found on one of them that was the same one Barbara had been holding the night before. Caitlin cursed that they had killed the men and repeatedly stabbed the corpse of the raider who was carrying the bear. Listening over the radio in the Humvee, the group could hear chatter about the people in the woods that had been seen by the Apache and that several teams had been sent out to find them. They could also tell from the radio chatter that the men at Fort Chaffee were not trained military in any way and that their efforts were not well coordinated. During the firefight, Caitlin had made an incredible shot to take out one of the raiders, so Mike asked her about what she “really” did before the outbreak. He had also seen the shot she had made back at Snyder Farms to take out a walker that was too close to Bryce, and he knew she wasn’t a “stay at home mom” no matter what she said. Caitlin admitted that not only was her father a Pittsburgh cop, which the group already knew, but she was a S.W.A.T captain in the city before the outbreak. That explained a LOT. After looting the Humvee and the bodies, the group moved on.
Before they saw the base, the group could hear the Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness” and other music being blared over loudspeakers as throngs of people partied in the rain. There was a makeshift motorcycle track set up to the side of the main gate and motorcycle races were currently being held in the mud and rain. There were also obvious guards armed with automatic weapons stationed about every 60 feet in this area, with stationary gun emplacements about every 120 feet. Lights and bonfires could be seen all over the complex, and the whole thing was brightly lit, with huge spotlights everywhere and searchlights scanning the 12 foot high razor-wire topped fence. The lights also illuminated a number of tall poles, arranged in pairs, that each held a body strung between them. One of the bodies was Jeff Murray. He wasn’t moving, so he either wasn’t quite dead or hadn’t yet turned into one of those things. Caitlin spat and her disdain for her husband was shared by the rest of the group. Curious about the rest of the facility, the group decided to make a circuit of the base, being careful to keep their distance and stay out of sight. Eventually, the group came to a hill on the side of the base that had another fence running along it. This interior fence was holding back throngs of the living dead, many in military uniforms. The back side of the base was left to the dead and unlit.
As they were finishing their recon, a patrol of two men came by the group about 40 feet away. Mike, Caitlin, Alison, and Sean snuck up behind the pair while Brooke ran in from the front, with her weapon tucked into her pants at the small of her back. Her t-shirt was clinging to her figure because of the soaking rain, and she breathlessly asked the men for help. As she did so, the others jammed guns into their backs and dragged them into the trees nearby.
Brooke asked the men where the children were and what was the best way to get into the base unseen. She really turned on the charm, and the weapons digging into their skin didn’t hurt either. The men revealed that the kids were being kept in “B” Barracks, which was where prisoners were kept until they were no longer useful. The men admitted that the best place to get inside was to find a way through the fence as close to the walking dead enclosure as possible, since none of the men wanted to go near it unless they had to. Mike made a mental note that the men weren’t wearing any formal uniform outside of tattered cast-off BDU’s scrounged from the base, nor were they wearing an insignia or other identifying markings. This meant that once they got onto the base, it would be more easy to pass themselves off as belonging there, if they looked the part. After the brief interrogation, Thomas asked the group what they wanted to do with the men. Caitlin slit one’s throat before Thomas had even finished speaking, so he did the same with the other and they moved toward the fence.
Using bolt cutters found in the Humvee, the group cut into the fence near the zombie pen and moved inside. Bryce, Michael, James, and Tim would make sure the escape route stayed clear and be prepared to weaken the fence into the zombie pen as soon as they were ready to escape from the base. The rest of the group split into three pairs, thinking it best to look like couples in search of a quiet spot for some horizontal fun as they moved toward “B” Barracks. Mike and Caitlin, Sean and Alison, and Thomas and Brooke were the pairs.
About halfway to the barracks, Mike and Caitlin were walking around a corner when a pair of guys almost walked right into them. Guns were leveled for a tense moment, and the men asked them what they were doing. Mike replied that they were looking for a good place to fuck, and the two men asked if they could join. A single glance from Caitlin sent them on their way.
The three pairs finally came together near the barracks, which were arranged in a hexagonal pattern. The A, B, and C Barracks were still standing, though D, E, and F had apparently burned down, leaving the back of the hexagon open. The group could see the flames of bonfires and groups of tents off in the distance as they scouted the area.
Moving to the rear entrance to the “B” Barracks, Brooke easily picked the lock and gained entry. The interior was dark, with only minimal security lighting for illumination. Square holes had been cut into the doors, with chicken wire stapled over the holes. Scanning the makeshift cells, the group found four women tied to bunks, a single man in another room, and four of the five girls in the last room.
The lone man in the one cell started asking to be let out, but the group was hesitant to set any of the other prisoners free, wanting to release just the girls and get out. The man gave them some information about the guard movements and offered to share details of the place’s vehicular defenses and such, since he was being forced to repair things like tanks and helicopters for the occupants of the base during the day. He also told them when the girls were brought in and that a walker had been brought in as well. With this, and since Sean thought he looked VERY familiar to him, Mike let him out of his cell. Caitlin and Alison began checking over the four children in their cell down at the end of the hall. Barbara, Samantha, Kimmy, and Cathy Cardile were in there. There clothing was torn and they had been bitten on the legs by the teeth of a small zombie. The older two, Barbara and Samantha, were in the worst shape.
Hearing some moaning coming from what looked like a supply closet near the girls’ cell, Mike and Brooke opened the door and found Lina. She had a sack over her head, but was still recognizable by her tattered clothing. Caitlin’s youngest was no longer among the living and had been turned into one of the walking dead. With a heavy heart, Mike closed the door and he, Thomas, and Brooke joined Caitlin and Alison and the girls.
Thomas told everybody to move out, but Caitlin told him she wasn’t going anywhere until they found Lina. Thomas told her that she had been found, but was one of the things now. She demanded to see her. Thomas told her that he wouldn’t allow that. Caitlin cocked her shotgun and again demanded to see her daughter. Thomas stood his ground, saying that she didn’t want to see her that way. Caitlin asked if they at least had the decency to put her down, and when Thomas admitted that she hadn’t been put down, Caitlin became furious. She said she would be putting her down before they left and that was the end of the discussion. With little choice, Mike led her to the closet where Lina was trapped and opened the door. Caitlin went inside, removed the sack from her daughter’s head, holding the little girl’s hair to avoid a bite, and after a tearful goodbye, ended the girl’s unlife.
After finally deciding to release the rest of the prisoners and keep them with the group, they moved out of the barracks and back to their extraction team near where they had entered the base. As they were leaving the barracks, the newly freed Waylon told Mike that they needed to find his dog, Maggie. He also asked for a weapon to defend himself, though he understood if they didn’t trust him with one. Thomas told him they didn’t have time to find the dog, to which Waylon told them they had to, because he and the dog had a psychic link. Not sensing any hostility in Waylon, Mike handed him a shotgun and a few rounds. Once outside the barracks, a small bounding form ran out of the darkness and into Waylon’s arms. He had found Maggie, or rather, she had found him. “See, I told you we had a psychic link.”
The last thing they did before closing their entry point behind them was to weaken the fence enough to let the undead begin making their way through into the inhabited part of the base. As they watched the undead begin to move into the ranks of the living, Caitlin made a vow to return and make sure these evil men were wiped from the face of the earth.
The group carried the girls back to the Humvee and switched the radio over to the channel used by Snyder Farms in time to hear “Father” Kenneth calling for them over that frequency. When Brooke, riding shotgun, answered, he told her that they had been forced to abandon the community after it was attacked by a helicopter gunship. The Apache the group had seen on their way to the base. The whole place was now burning and they had gotten as many people as they could to safety. They quickly set a rendezvous point, retrieved the pickup trucks, and went to meet those that had managed to escape the community.
At the rendezvous point, the group met up with Trip, Fabiana, and the rest of their group. They had the RV and the panel truck. “Father Kenneth” had the 26 survivors of Snyder Farms loaded into the vehicles, which included 3 vehicles in addition to the panel truck and RV, and now the Humvee and two pickup trucks. John Cardile, Jr. was among those that weren’t able to be saved back at Snyder Farms.
Completely emotionally drained and nearly in shock, the group silently made their way toward Sanctuary after all of the children, under Fabiana’s close watch were moved to the RV. Fabiana needed desperately to save the girls. Though she hadn’t had the chance to do the research she wanted, she began to draw blood from Brooke, Samantha, and Kimmy, as best she could in the moving RV, and use the equipment salvaged from Dr. Lewis’ lab back at Pink Hill to get their blood types. She was hoping for a universal donor among those three, and counting on Brooke, Samantha, and Kimmy to actually be immune to not only the airborne version of the virus, but also to the infection from bites. If one of them was Type O negative, a universal donor, she would draw enough blood from them to begin to introduce the antibodies into the systems of the other girls.
Fabiana finally found what she was looking for on the road to a place called Sanctuary.
Brooke was O negative, a universal donor. Maybe there was hope for the girls after all.
TO BE CONTINUED…