by Crazy Pen
you first get to meet Julius as he and his team try to save a town from monsters
|Ch.1 what snow mobiles, the undead, and airborne commands have in common.
In a Swiss town
His surroundings looked like pictures he’d seen of a World War I bunker: simple wooden planking for walls, an un-sanded wooden table with a ham radio, and a single chair were the only permanent decorations.
Bo Nilsson clutched his stomach as it growled. It had been two days since he had hidden in this underground bunker. Toni, one of the oldest men in town, had led him in here when “they” invaded. Toni had talked on the radio for a few minutes before venturing out himself. He had never returned.
Bo had called on the radio himself, only to find that the snowstorm turned most of the channels to static. There was one contact he got surprisingly clear. Toni had it written down and labeled under the name Ravencroft, whoever they were. He’d called them multiple times. All they said was that help was coming.
He couldn’t stand it a minute longer. The air was becoming saturated with his own stench. The walls were closing in on him. He scurried up the steps and threw open the trap door. He was in the middle of the kitchen floor. The room was simple.
Bo climbed out, easing the trap door closed. He shifted the rug that had been so carefully placed on top. The water in the tap worked and Bo drank his fill, partly out of thirst and partly to ease his hunger.
There was no food in the house. The cupboards had been stripped bare. In fact the house looked bare. Now that he remembered, there had been a silver urn above the fireplace. An oil painting was missing from one wall. Even the large jar Toni had been collecting change in for thirty years was gone. There was a telephone by the sink. He tried it and found the line dead.
Bo stepped on something metal and uneven on the floor. It was a revolver, its brass finish darkened with age. On the side, written in English just behind the trigger, were the words “Enfield 1940” and above that, “Property of the British Army.” It was fully loaded.
Bo hadn’t been through Rekrutenschule, or “Recruit School,” but his Dad had taught him how to shoot on his Sig 510 rifle, the gun of choice for Swiss Militia Officers.
Bo slipped on his coat, boots, and holding the pistol solidly ahead of him, proceeded out into the cold.
It was dark. The streets were covered with a sheet of snow, unplowed or even the walkways cleared of ice. Most of the houses were dark. Bo didn’t know where else to go so he proceeded to his house.
Ahead there was a cry. Bo listened for more, then took off running for the source. He found it-- and wished he hadn’t.
Four of them stood in the middle of the street, caught in a shadow of light spilling from a nearby window. Three were strangers, but the one they held between two of them was the guy who worked down at the baker’s shop. His wasn’t wearing any winter gear, his face exposed for all to see.
The strangers were taking in French, Bo only understanding snippets of it. He could tell from their body language that they were angry with something the baker had done. The stranger in front of the baker grabbed the man by the throat, raising him into the air. He held him there as the baker wiggled like a fish out of water.
Bo raised the pistol, taking dead aim at the back of the strangler. He pulled back the hammer. Now all he had to do was shoot, yes, shoot! But his finger had somehow frozen in place, ignoring the demands of his brain. His hands began to shake, the iron sights bobbing up and down like a fishing boat in a storm. All he had to was squeeze the trigger and the bullet would rip through flesh and blood and the man would die.
The one hoisting the baker now held up his free hand, holding it in the air so its outline was clear in the night. The hand changed, fingers growing longer until they were fine points. Then he chucked the baker into the air with inhuman strength and slashed at him with his claw-hand. The baker fell to the ground, and floundered about clutching his throat as his life blood strained the snow.
And then they descended upon the dying man, and bit, tore and chew as they ate him.
Bo fled, tears streaming down his face for the baker. “This was all wrong” he thought, “I’m only a kid, this shouldn’t be happening. Get home, get safe, this is all just a bad dream. My little sister Alisa will be there to greet me when I walk through the door, and Dad and Mom.”
His brain was leading him to his destination by an alternate path. His legs running without command. A path away from those people, no, those monsters.
Bo took a corner at full speed; shooting down the back street with the dogs of hell nipping at his heels. He crashed into a large form.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going” it barked. Bo pushed pasted. Strong arms pulled him back. “Listen to me, where do you think you’re going in such a hurry.
"Hey, who are you? You’re not one of us!”
In a spurt of irrational thought Bo slammed the cocked pistol into the form’s chest, shooting until it released its grip. Then he continued to run, and run and run and run until he was behind the door of his own house.
He clutched his chest as his heart jack hammered against his ribcage. He stumbled into the living room. It was cold and empty. Here too it had been stripped of anything of material value.
Bo searched the rest of the house. His sibling’s rooms were empty. He called their names only to be met with a void of silence. His parent’s room was trashed. He moved on. He found his dad’s thick winter coat. He would never leave the house without.
Bo fell to his knees. Had that same thing happened to his family that happened to the baker? Were they devoured alive? Was anyone he knew, cared and loved left alive? Or was he the only survivor of this massacre?
Bo wiped away the tears and said a prayer for his family, dead or alive.
He couldn’t stay there forever. Those “things” might have seen him when he fled. He had to get out of there. The thought of being eaten as he gasped out his last breath was too much. Get out of town, fast, alive, away from the gates of death.
A meal of peanut butter on crackers was all he could scrounge. Like Toni’s house, his had been emptied of food.
He found the riding gear where it had been hung up last. He fit the helmet firmly onto his head, adjusted the thick gloves so they fit snuggly. He grabbed the keys to his dad’s snow mobile from the hook in the living room and was out the door.
Somewhere over Switzerland
“Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man.” Julius looked at the two girls, the only students who had managed to truly entertain themselves. He watched their hands move back and forth in repetitive, rhythmic motion to the beat. Most sat in their seats, or sat on the floor. Some slept, some listened to music, some played cards; still others watched the ones playing cards.
Their builds and looks varied as differently as any group of people but they all had light skin tones. Most had soot black hair; a growing minority had brown or red hair. Israel, his combat partner and occupying the seat beside him, was the only true blond amongst them. Right now a few wisps poked out from underneath the lopsided helmet perched on her head.
Outside he could hear the steady drone of the C-17 engines at it lumbered its mass through the open sky, the vibration traveling through the plane and up through his legs and seat. Low level lighting illuminated the interior bay. He turned up the volume on his Zune mp3 player.
They were fighting boredom, they all were. And anxiety, and fear, and tension, like a terrified animal forced to cross the open pavement of a road. He took a deep breath.
Their first real mission. Their graduation mission. They had been on call for the whole year for an opportunity like this. Now it was here.
They were all here, everyone from his graduating class. Himself and 39 other students. He’d known them for all eight years of his schooling. They were his friends, his family, well, technicality they were all cousins, even though some of them were more times removed than any cared to count. And he, Julius, was about to lead his team into battle.
The aircraft shook, causing Julius to grip the edge of his seat.
“Nervous?” Eddy sat down beside him.
Eddy was one of the ten teachers coming on the mission as supervisors, Eddy being the senior medic. The supervisors were to watch and not intervene unless things got truly deadly, for the teams at least.
He was dressed like everyone else: a mixture of gray, black and white camouflage. Underneath that was another mixture, this time of Kevlar over-layered by steel armor, making everyone look like mini marshmallow men.
Besides body armor and camouflage, they all carried standard equipment: a pack, usually stuffed with basic medical supplies and extra ammo. They all had on their parachutes and helmets, with mounted night vision optics, as they had when they boarded. Their weapons tucked safely away, ready for the jump.
“No” replied Julius with his usual cool ease, but his voice caught.
“Liar”, this was followed by a cheeky grin and a chuckle.
“Eddy, if we fail, do we have to repeat school?”
Eddy laughed, “Don’t you have your priorities mixed up? How about you concentrate on the mission and staying alive instead of repeating a year of schooling.”
At the look on Julius’s face he continued.
“But don’t worry, you won’t fail. Even if you do we’re not going to make you repeat the whole year. You’ll be fine. We’re here to make sure of that.”
“Thanks,” the encouragement helped temporally.
“How about you go up front and check with the captain, see how much longer until we hit the drop zone.”
Julius stood up, stretched and yawned, hearing the creaks and pops of bones, muscles and joints held under tension for far too long.
The stewardess met him as he entered the heated confines of the crew quarters. She was pushing a cart.
“Coffee?” she offered.
Julius almost laughed, almost, but the seriousness of the situation couldn’t dispel itself. Something as normal as coffee. Come to think of it some coffee would probably do him some good, and maybe the rest as well.
“Ask the others first, I’ll get some on my way back.” He snaked his way past her and the cart.
The pilot and copilot were in the middle of a discussion when Julius walked in.
“Sorry to barge in like this.”
“Neh,” the captain waved it off, “never mind us” he said in his thick Irish accent. “Take a seat. What can w’ do for yeh?”
“My god, you were right”, the copilot said, his English accent quite prominent. “They look so young”. He stared at Julius with fixated eyes ablaze with curiosity.
“Told ye so” said the captain and turned back to his duties. “Wondering about DZ time? You got 15 minutes.”
'Um, yeah, thanks.”
“Before you go”, the copilot looked to the captain for reassurance before continuing, “could you settle a little bet?”
Julius looked to the captain, the angling of his ears the only hint he was paying attention, and back to the copilot.
“Do you really fight the paranormal?” doubt and a hint of fear etched on his pondering face.
“What’s his security clearance” Julius asked out of the corner of his mouth.
“High enough” the captain didn’t look up.
“Yes,” and Julius left the copilot stringing a slur of curses.
He passed the stewardess coming back with an empty tray.
“I’ll take that coffee now.”
“Five minutes and god be with you” shouted the Principal and now head supervisor over the roar coming in from the open loading door.
“Because he’s certainly not with our enemy” countered someone, probably Eddy. A few halfheartedly smiled at the common jest.
Everyone was standing in the center aisle. Everyone checked the person in front and behind them: giving their gear a once over, tightening straps and minor equipment adjustments, the usual pre-jump safety check. Julius fit Israel’s helmet firmly on her head, ignoring her objections.
He felt apprehensive. The coffee helped. Not only was he tense but wired as well. He should have asked for a shot of rum.
Julius could feel the plane slowing to almost a crawl. The light next to the door turned from red to green. And then they were out.
The ride down was exhilarating, to say the least. He folded his arms to his side and dived, fears temporarily forgotten as he raced Israel to the ground. He waited until the last possible second to pull his ripcord. He was jerked back by the chute and landed with a puff in the snow.