sunset-284539_640

~~~

They stood in the center of a large room with faded white walls and a beige-colored tile floor that hadn’t looked like it had been cleaned in a long time. Off to their left was an ancient looking computer console with several monitors, all broken, that hung above a wide console covered with keypads, buttons, levers and various lights that were presently dark and dusty. There were four old leather chairs with wheels on them that were tucked below a dark-colored desk before the console. Directly to their right were two more steel doors like the one they’d entered. Directly ahead, they could see a long hallway with several more doors on each side and one lone door that stood beckoning at the end of the hall.

“This place looks old as shit… and abandoned,” Frank whispered.

“And very big if those other doors are any indication,” Diane added.

Stephen said, “The air smells stale in here, like this place hasn’t seen an open window in forever.”

Meredith had no comment.

From just outside the secure door behind them, they could hear the dead banging against the steel and screaming, but it all sounded muffled and drowned out by the steady hum of hidden machinery coming from somewhere behind the walls… just like what they heard in the tunnel.

“That sounds like some kind of powerful generators keeping this place lit up,” Frank said, referring to the hum.

Stephen noticed that the lighting above the large console was shut off, making that side of the room darker than the rest. “Whatever’s providing the juice to this place, there’s no power running to the console,” he said, slowly walking over to examine the controls. “I bet there’s a separate breaker box for this thing.”

“Be careful,” Frank reminded him. “We don’t know what that console controls. There might be a damn good reason someone shut it down. You turn something on, you might just put us all in the dark.”

“Of course, the million dollar question remains,” Diane said. “Where are the rest of them? You can’t tell me that those two that attacked us in the cavern are the only things down in this place.”

Frank studied the closest doors on the right. They were locked with the same configuration as the door they had entered, requiring a hand imprint and a code to open. “These could lead to other rooms or more damn tunnels for all we know.” He turned to Meredith and said, “You could open these, too, couldn’t you?”

Meredith gave him a pleading look. “I… I don’t know. Maybe.”

Frank nodded, clearly seeing the older woman’s discomfort. “Let’s just leave Pandora’s Boxalone until we understand what this place is. There could be more zombies behind these doors.”

Stephen located a small breaker box with a large red lever on the wall behind the console. “Found it!” he called out.

“Don’t mess with anything,” Frank said.

Diane was staring at Meredith suspiciously. “And just how is it that you happen to have an access code to get in here?”

Meredith looked toward the floor and answered, “That, honey, is a question I never thought I’d ever have to answer again.”

Frank deflected the question. “Let’s just worry about what’s in front of us at the moment,” he told the hunter. “I want to know what this place is.”

“It’s a laboratory… I think,” Meredith volunteered. “I… I don’t know anything about this place… I knew nothing about it or that it was even here… but I’m familiar with another facility that looks a lot like this one.” She placed her arms across her chest as if struck by chills. “You’ll have to excuse my behavior, this place is digging up all sorts of memories I’d rather leave in the ground.”

“Regardless,” Diane said. “You know more than you’re telling us. Why are you being so secretive?”

“Diane…” Frank tried to interrupt. “Just leave it be.”

She turned to Frank and finished, “And why are you trying to cover for her?” The hunter nervously held her rifle out in front and backed away from both of them. “Who are you people, anyway? Other than Tony vouching for you… I don’t know a damn thing about any of you other than this woman can do things that terrify me as much as those dead things outside this door.”

Frank let out a heavy sigh and looked at Meredith.

The older woman smiled at him and said, “Frank, you don’t have to protect me anymore.” She turned to the hunter and finished, “It’s okay, Diane, we’re no threat to you. Yes, I’ve got secrets… secrets that I’d hoped to take to the grave with me… until we ended up here.” She looked back at Frank with a sad, faraway look in her eyes. “I’ve spent my life running from secrets… just to find out now, that I’ve been running toward them all along.”

Diane gave them both a weary look and said, “Well… I think you better start making some sense. If you know something that can help us- ”

She stopped short as Stephen pulled down the breaker lever and the console started chirping and beeping to life.

“Stephen? What the hell are you doing?” Frank barked. “I told you not to mess with anything!”

Both Frank and Diane held their weapons up as the console started coming to life.

“No more secrets,” Stephen said, stepping away from the breaker box as the light came on above the console.
“I’m done being at the mercy of secrets… whether their mine or anyone else’s.”

As what was left of the control console came awake, they heard the magnetic locking mechanisms on several of the doors, including the one they had entered, click loudly as a strange robotic voice spoke from a speaker above the console:

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 20 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS…

“What the hell is that?” Frank asked. “Stephen, what did you do?”

Stephen looked confused. “I… I didn’t do anything. I just turned it on.”

Diane checked the door behind them. “I think he just deactivated the security system. This door isn’t locked anymore!”

They all stared at the entrance door and noticed the handle starting to move.

“Fuck!” Frank yelled. “Can they get in?”

Diane grabbed the handle, trying to keep it from moving. “I don’t know! How smart are these fucking things? Can they open doors?”

Frank turned to Stephen and yelled, “Shut that fucking thing down!”

Stephen gave him a frightened look and held up his hand. He was holding a red lever. “I’m… I’m sorry… it was stuck so I… it came right off when I pulled it down.”

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 20 MINUTES…

Several lights on the control console were flashing red and green as Frank ran over and tried to decipher the controls. “I can’t make this shit out! These controls are so old that most of the description words have faded off!”

Stephen ran back to the breaker box and desperately tried to reinsert the lever with no success. “This doesn’t make any sense!” he shouted. “The power should be sustaining the locks, not shutting them down!”

“Probably a fucking glitch,” Frank said, staring frustratingly at the Christmas tree of lights flashing before him. “The wiring or whatever is probably old as dirt. They probably had to modify all kinds of shit to keep things running the way they’re supposed to… like leaving the fucking breaker box shut off to keep the doors locked!”

Meredith ran over to help Diane keep the door handle from moving.

They could hear the dead just outside the door getting excited.

“They know,” Diane said. “Somehow those monsters know they have a chance to can get in.”

Meredith looked into the hunter’s accusing face. “I’m… I’m sorry,” she offered.

“Go help Frank,” she barked. “You said this place looks familiar… maybe you’ll conveniently remember something else that can save our asses before the dead get through this door… or before that fucking countdown clock expires!”

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION…

~~~

…19 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS…

Marcus and Gina picked up the dead soldiers’ automatic weapons and started firing as the mob of the dead advanced—the gunfire only drawing more of them into the area and making their situation worse.

They only managed to stall the dead as bodies fell in front of more bodies, slowing them down slightly.

When their guns were empty, Marcus handed Gina Copperfield’s sword as he gently sat her against the tree and picked up his machete, preparing to meet his old friend, Death, head on. He took a defensive stance in front of Gina, weapon raised, as more than fifty reanimated monsters stormed toward them.

And so it ends, he thought with a wicked smile on his face. I am ready to face you… look you in the eye… and finally earn your respect. “Come… and take me into your embrace, My Lady, and know that I stand before you unafraid… and ready to take my rightful place!” he shouted defiantly into the horde as Death approached.

The sound of the machine gun caught the attention of the dead closest to Marcus and Gina as Tony stormed in from their right and fired at point-blank range into their faces. As his magazine ran empty he started swinging the rifle with incredible force into the skulls of the monsters, screaming and refusing to let them get any closer.

Gina almost confused Tony for one of the crazed dead as she saw the raging bull plow through the horde to get to them. “Get her up!” he shouted at Marcus. “NOW!”

Marcus swung his machete like lightning, slicing off the heads of two zombies that were almost to him. He quickly turned and got Gina’s arms around his neck as she shoved Copperfield’s sword into the face of another monster that tried to take them from the side. She had to let go of the weapon, as it took all her strength to pierce the beast.

Tony plowed into four zombies like a linebacker, knocking them over into several more that were closing in behind them. He quickly go to his feet in front of Marcus and Gina and continued to assault the dead with the swinging rifle.

As Marcus got his hands up under Gina and got her moving back around the willow tree, Tony shouted over his shoulder, “We need to get out of here! There’s a bomb about to go off!”

Marcus shouted back, “South gate is wide open! We might make it if we follow the fence line.”

“Do it!” Tony shouted as he continued to push back the dead like a human tank, fueled by his intense rage released on the creatures that tried to take his Gina away.

“Tony!” Gina tried to shout. “Don’t you dare leave me!”

He heard her voice which broke through his near suicidal killing spree as he stepped away from the swarming dead and retreated back toward the others, helping Marcus drag Gina out and back along the eastern fence line as more than a hundred corpses shambled up behind them.

~~~

Charlie pushed his horde through the general assembly area, wiping out the remaining soldiers with ease as they continued toward the eastern end of the camp. He was getting extremely agitated that he hadn’t found Gina yet and it was requiring all his effort to maintain control of the dead as their taste for blood only made them more volatile and less responsive to his commands. He was worried that they would find her and that he would be unable to stop the horde from tearing her to pieces.

And then he spotted Marcus and Gina through a gap in the mob as they desperately tried to hold back his monsters near a tall tree at the edge of the camp.

“I have you!” he shouted, as he lifted up the megaphone to stop his army’s advance.

That’s when a shot rang out from somewhere to his left and the bullet struck his arm, causing him to drop the bullhorn.

He grabbed his throbbing arm and shouted, “What? No! Not now! I’m so fucking close!” He turned in the direction of the shot and tried to duck down for cover behind the old zombie, Rusty.

Another shot rang out, hitting Rusty in the forehead. The old zombie fell to the ground, leaving Charlie exposed.

“No… no… NO!” Charlie shouted, ignoring the pain in his arm as another shot rang out and entered his left thigh.

Charlie fell to his knees and cried out. The pain was excruciating.

The closest zombies near him felt Charlie’s control wane as they started to turn toward him to devour their master.

Charlie screamed, “BACK! GET THE FUCK BACK!”

The dead relented but a small group of them were now trying to form a ring around him, closing in for the kill, driven insane by the sight of Charlie’s blood that was spilling on the ground beneath him.

Charlie maintained his control… barely… and managed to hobble away from the main horde toward a large barrack to his left. The small group of the dead followed after him as Charlie continued to yell inaudible commands over his shoulder. He felt himself blacking out from the pain as he desperately tried to reach the barrack door. If he passed out before he made it inside, the dead would consume him.

His insatiable rage kept him up as he refused to be robbed of his victory. He no longer cared about the sniper as he focused only on the door and keeping the dead back long enough to get inside.

Charlie reached for the door to the large barrack that seemed more like a hanger. He opened it and stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Charlie stood on a metal walkway overlooking a pit of large cages full of… people.

“What the hell is this?” he asked, and then started to pass out from blood loss.

The dead began to assault the hanger door as they felt Charlie’s control over them dissipate.

He rolled over on his back and tried to stay conscious. “No… not like this. I’m not supposed to die… not like this.”

He heard footsteps approaching from down the walkway as someone grabbed his shoulders and began to drag him deeper into the hanger. “Don’t worry, Mr. Charlie,” a voice said. “I, too, believe you are meant to survive this tragic day… although, you did bring this on yourself.”

Charlie tried to resist but fell unconcious as Micom continued to drag him away.

~~~

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 10 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS…

Tony and Marcus pushed like hell to stay out of the clutches of the dead as they alternated between carrying Gina, who had fallen unconscious again, and fighting off the horde. They managed to make it out the gap in the south gate as they moved as fast as possible to stay ahead of the dead and get as far away from the camp as possible before time ran out.

When Charlie had passed out, the dead became less focused as more and more of them gave up the chase to stay behind and feast upon the remains of the scattered dead soldiers throughout the camp. This allowed them time to get ahead of the dead that now pursued them at a much slower pace.

Five precious minutes later, they reached the narrow gravel road that led south out of the preserve, with only a handful of the dead still in pursuit. Tony refused to let them stop for a second, not knowing if they had escaped the blast range of Micolad, the destroyer.

“How much time do we have?” Marcus asked.

“Not long,” Tony answered, out of breath.

“Long enough to make it out of the preserve?” Marcus asked.

Tony gave him a grave look and answered, “No… I don’t think so.”

“Then if I may suggest an alternate plan… there’s a tunnel I found near here that I used to sneak into the camp along the south side. It eventually took me up under the domes.”

“Yes,” Tony said. “I’m familiar with these tunnels. We used one to escape the camp when I was here with Samantha.”

“This tunnel is maybe five minutes from here, and as I recall, it ran fairly deep before surfacing… if we can avoid the dead long enough to make it there…”

“…it might shelter us from the blast,” Tony finished. “Let’s do it.”

~~~

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 5 MINUTES…

Frank had stopped trying to figure out the console as he randomly began pushing buttons that didn’t seem to do anything. He even swore at it profusely which also had no effect.

Meredith was not able to offer any additional information to help them as she had started exploring the other rooms that were unlocked, all except for the lone door at the very end of the hall that had remained secure. She’d come back and told them she hadn’t found any other way out of the facility or another way to turn off the power to the console. But she had returned a shade whiter in the face as if she’d seen a ghost.

“What is it?” Frank had asked with concern. “Are we still alone in here?”

Meredith ignored the question.

What she’d discovered in one of the rooms she had decided to keep to herself, believing that if the clock counted down to their destruction, they’d all be better off not knowing what she’d found. She had, however, located a tool box that she’d handed to Stephen.

Stephen had given her a grateful look as he’d searched for tools to re-install the handle.

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 4 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS…

“I’ve got it!” Stephen called out as he finally managed to get the lever back on.

Diane continued to guard the exit into the tunnel, making sure the dead did not gain entry.

“Well… what are you waiting for?” Frank barked. “Shut this damn thing off!”

“Wait a moment!” Meredith called out, reaching into the tool box for a set of screwdrivers. She quickly went to all the doors that were unlocked and placed a screwdriver in them to keep them ajar after the locks came back on.

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION… 4 MINUTES…

“All good!” Meredith called out.

Frank nodded at Stephen. “Do it!”

Stephen turned the red lever back up as the overhead lights around the console flickered and shut off. The lights on the console also went dead as the sound of the door locks clicked loudly throughout the room.

Diane stepped away from the tunnel door and said, “This one’s secure again!”

Stephen wiped sweat off his brow and said, “We did it!”

For a moment, they all believed they were safe, until the cold, indifferent voice of Micolad continued to blare through the speaker system:

…COUNTDOWN TO EXTERMINATION PROTOCOL COMPLETION…

~~~

…3 MINUTES, 30 SECONDS…

Marcus found the southern tunnel that ran beneath the camp. Tony went in first and dragged Gina in after him. Marcus took up the rear to keep the dead from following. They crawled their way into the deepest part of the tunnel and stopped. Both men were exhausted.

Tony looked to Marcus and said, “Thank you, friend… for keeping her alive.”

Marcus simply nodded and said, “You can thank me later if this works.”

~~~

…1 MINUTE…

Frank and the others moved to the center of the large room, resigned to their fate. They had found no way to stop the countdown… and even they could… they had no way of knowing if it mattered.

“Do you think it’s a bomb?” Diane asked.

Frank hung his head and said, “‘Extermination’ is the word that mechanical maniac keeps using. If it’s not a bomb, than it’s probably something just as lethal.”

“This is a hell of a way for it all to end,” Stephen said. “I guess this is better than death-by-zombies. I hope the others made it out.”

“Don’t give up hope yet,” Meredith said with a smile. “That clock could count down to zero and nothing might happen.”

…30 SECONDS…

They all gave up on words, choosing to use their last remaining seconds to remember each other’s faces and make their peace with God in whatever we they silently saw fit.

~~~

…15 SECONDS…

Gina opened her eyes and saw Tony’s concerned face.

“When did you get here?” she asked feverishly, trying to smile.

Tony stroked her short hair and lied. “Relax, Gina, everything will be alright now.”

She started fading out again, but not before she said, “I… I love you, Tony.”

He smiled at her and said, “And I love you. Get some rest now.”

The big man looked at Marcus and said, “You ready for this?”

Marcus smiled and said confidently, “Yes, Tony… I am ready.”

Tony nodded and grabbed Gina’s hand…

…FIVE… FOUR… THREE… TWO… ONE…

~~~

Orosco woke up from a much needed nap as the room shook violently for a brief second. At first he thought it was an earthquake. He could hear people gathering outside. He quickly threw his shoes on and stepped outside to join the remaining Andover survivors as they stared in horror across Lake Pymatuning at the massive fireball that lit up the sky several miles to the north.

“My God,” he whispered, and then silently started praying for Tony and the others.

~~~

Final Episode (27-15):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/chapter-27-15-end-game-finale/

Previous Episode (27-13):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/chapter-27-13-end-game/

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction to help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required, just a click next to my listed title. You can vote for it every 7 days. Every lit bit helps. Thanks for your support and for reading :)
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________________________________________________
“Chapter 27-14: End Game” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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