~~~

Just outside the southern end of the Mother facility, Lady Clementine’s detachment of armed and unarmed men and women, dressed in forest green uniforms, were busy preparing for the now late arrival of the Carrie-Anne. They had all been told to expect the vessel before dusk and that Clementine was bringing a very important guest to the island. That meant getting everyone on the same page and putting on a well-disciplined first impression. Lady Clementine demanded perfection and that meant everyone needed to be on top of their assigned tasks.

Of course, this was all just another ruse, designed by Lady Clementine, to further misdirect Toby’s attention away from the cavern on the western end, stalling for time. But no one wearing green had been informed of this.

Several tall spotlights on wheels were now being moved from a large hangar bay to various points surrounding the helicopter landing pad, as well as down by the dock. The lights were powered by one large generator, which meant that Clementine’s electricians needed to lay cables before the twilight sky quickly faded overhead.

Clementine’s security attachment was busy making sure the dock just south of the hangar bay was secure. The medical staff prepared for emergency services. Three helicopter pilots waited near their birds on the helicopter pad in case their services were needed to search for the Carrie-Anne should she not arrive at all. Personal aides that performed a wide variety of tasks from cooking meals, to cleaning, to the maintaining of equipment, all went about their assigned duties, preparing for an evening arrival, with much trepidation.

Everyone who had been with Lady Clementine at the airport on the mainland were now housed in the barracks adjacent to the large helicopter pad. While one shift went about their duties a second shift enjoyed what little down time they could in the barracks.

Before the last of the spotlight cables were in position, the sky had grown dark.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

Howls erupted from the east side of the hangar bay and just west of the barracks.

Everyone stopped what they were doing, staring at each other with uncertainty.

And then the Nightwalkers attacked. They went immediately for the electricians preparing the spotlights and started to tear them apart.

Screams erupted.

Everyone resting in the barracks started to get up and look around.

Eight monsters dressed in strange armor stormed into the barracks and started ripping them apart.

More screams.

The camp security force, most of them focused on the dock, suddenly turned back and headed for the barracks, guns raised.

They never made it as a horde of nightmarish creatures charged straight for them, jumping out of the evening shadows that hid their approach. The Nightwalkers dug razor sharp teeth into flesh, slashing their claws across the stunned soldiers’ exposed throats and faces.

Erratic gun shots echoed across the camp.

Panic took care of the rest as people outside ran for the false protection of the hangar bay, or the barracks, where they were attacked by wild beasts with red eyes. People inside, tried to make it out, but were grabbed and dragged back into dark corners were the Nightwalkers fed on them alive.

One helicopter pilot managed to get into his bird while blood was splattered across his windows. People trying to make it to the choppers were tackled from behind and dragged off into the night, kicking and screaming.

The pilot got his engine running as the blades of his chopper came to life, momentarily distracting the closest monsters. He could hear people attempting to climb into the rear of the helicopter. Fearing for his life, the pilot took off too fast, as terrified men and women in blood-cover green, tried to hang on to the chopper, and fell to their deaths on the helicopter pad.

As the pilot cleared the ground, he heard a low growl from behind him. He turned and found the eyes of a savage creature, it’s face dripping with the blood of a fresh kill. The pilot reached for his holstered handgun.

Too late.

The disfigured former human dug its teeth deep into the pilot’s shoulder.

The pilot cried out and lost control of the bird as it started to spin in circles, moving too low and toward the southern entrance of the Mother installation.

As the Nightwalkers continued their slaughter of everyone near the hangar bay and down by the docks, the out-of-control helicopter crashed into the southern end of the facility, exploding on impact. Shrapnel and debris from the crash shot outward, ripping into fleeing flesh and producing a massive fireball that shot up into the dark sky.

The tall spotlights, surrounding the camp like silent spectators, watched on with indifference as the Nightwalkers slaughtered everyone in the area, feasting upon many of them while they screamed to death.

Not a single light had been turned on.

~~~

The Carrie-Anne rocked up and down across the rolling waves as Captain Carl navigated the vessel to the south, a quarter mile off-shore, preparing to round the southern point of the island. The last of the day’s light was quickly going out over the western horizon, leaving a blood-red glow to mark the remains of the dying sun. The wind had picked up considerably, kicking up the waves, and making it difficult to hold course.

At the close of the tense confrontation down on the aft deck, Captain Carl had laughed unexpectantly, taking another hit off his pipe. He’d waved off his deckhands who had lowered their weapons, and said, “If only to meet this ‘special lady’ of yours and find out how she can drive the two of you to this madness… I will take you to the southern dock. She must be one of a kind, perhaps a siren of sorts whose beauty is just as dangerous and alluring as her song.”

Logan and Stephen had just given each other a confused look.

“No matter,” Carl had concluded. “Call me curious. I want to meet your… Gina. Besides, I could have my hands load up my commission while we wait for you at the dock. The sooner I’ve concluded my business with the Red Lady the better. Now, please, lower the flare gun and get the hell away from my damn fuel.”

Afterwards, Captain Carl had insisted his guests join him in the pilothouse so he could keep an eye on them while the siblings remained armed and stationed nearby.

Stephen and Logan had offered no further resistance.

“The hell?” Carl blurted out from behind the helm. They had just rounded the southern tip of the island.

“Is there a problem, captain?” Stephen said.

He shook his head and pointed his pipe toward the dark stretch of land ahead of them. “Somewhere in that dark mess is the dock. Those morons are supposed to have a lit up for me! They know this! It ‘ain’t the first time we’ve docked at night!”

Stephen and Logan stared out the front pilothouse windows. All they could make out was a darker line of land, silhouetted against the darkening sky. If not for the last of the fading light, they would not have been able to discern where the land met the water.

“Why would they not have lights on?” Logan said.

Carl ignored the big man’s question. He started barking orders at the siblings. The young man left the pilot house with instructions to man the bow mounted spotlight at the very front of the vessel.

“We can still make it in without the dock lit up, but we’ll have to slow down and drift a bit until we locate it with our own light. It’s just a bigger pain-in-the-ass this way.”

Logan pushed again. “Can you think of any reason why those lights would be out, captain?”

Carl just stared and frowned. “It’s damn unusual,” was all he said. “The Red Lady runs a tight operation here… always has. This is not like her. Not at all.”

Stephen and Logan shared a worried glance.

“Something’s happened,” Stephen whispered.

A bright light flashed ahead of them, getting everyone’s attention.

“Holy Mary Mother of…” Captain Carl let his words hang as he exited the pilot house and shouted down to the red-headed deck hand. He sent the girl down to join him.

Stephen and Logan just stared at the ball of fire hovering in the vicinity of the southern dock.

“Gina?” Stephen asked.

Logan nodded. “Perhaps. Whatever’s happening, I’m sure she’s right there in the middle of it.”

The captain came back inside looking winded and cursing under his breath. “That better not have been my damn fuel!”

“What’s happening?” Stephen said.

Carl was turning hard on the helm. The Carrie-Anne was turning away from the island as the captain altered course to run parallel to the shore, heading the other direction toward the east side.

“I told the twins to keep the lights out. We’ll be running dark. I won’t risk pulling into whatever madness is happening over there,” the captain said. “Looks like a good way to lose my ship, too… and that I will not allow.”

“Then where are you going?” Stephen pushed. “Our friend is over there! Something’s clearly wrong and we need to get Gina the hell out of there!”

“Aye,” Carl said with an impatient nod. “You’ll get your chance. But I’m not leaving here empty handed. There’s an older dock on the east side. A bit trickier to reach, but we’ve used it a time or two. There’s a small fuel depot on the east side where we might make up for our loses. If you’re still bent on finding your friend, I’ll let you off there while we gather fuel.”

“You mean while you ‘steal’ fuel,” Stephen corrected.

Logan laughed. “He is a fucking pirate.”

“I’ll just be collecting what I’m owned,” Carl clarified. “The Red Lady, if she’s still around at the pick-up, will understand.” He looked at them both and finished, “As for the rest, I’ve never ventured off the docks… never wanted to, either. But I will say that the eastern dock is out of the way. It’s surrounded by trees and might help you find your friend more… discreetly.” He laughed and took another hit from his pipe. “And judging by what we just witnessed on the south side, you may not want to be discovered after we get there. I suggest you find your friend quickly and skip the tour. Once I’ve got my fuel, I want to be off this damn island and back on the water. Are we clear on this?”

“Crystal,” Stephen said. “And… thanks for waiting.”

Captain Carl raised an eyebrow, amused. “You misunderstand. As much as I like you two, despite our little ‘blow up the ship’ moment earlier, my only concern is the payday. Nothing more. Should you happen to be back on board by the time I depart, then that’s just good timing. But if you’re not… I won’t be here. So, you better hurry.”

Logan nudged Stephen with an elbow and said, “He’s worse than a damn pirate. He’s an opportunist.”

This made the captain laugh.

“Well, whatever your motivations lie, thanks all the same,” Stephen said. “And… sorry for the whole ‘flare gun’ fiasco.”

“No worries.”

Stephen was about to turn, then stopped. “Captain, what will you do after all this?”

“I don’t catch your meaning.”

“I know you don’t care about what’s happening on the island or why we’re even here. But just to let you know, should we succeed in our… mission… you may find yourself unemployed.”

Carl laughed. “Yeah. This may be my last run regardless. Once things start unexpectedly blowing up at your employer’s place of business, that’s a clear sign that the well may have run dry. But don’t you worry, young man, I will manage.”

“Well,” Stephen continued. “I only wanted to say, should we make it out of this mess, you’re more than welcome to join us on the mainland. We once had a… prosperous… community with good people—the best kind of people.” Stephen started to get a little choked up. “Anyway, should we survive this island, I know we will get it all back… someday. You and your crew can join us and help us rebuild.”

Captain Carl gave Stephen a curious look, then took another drag off his pipe. “Prosperous, you say. I like the sound of that. However, you seem to be overlooking the obvious. Whether you find your dear friend, Gina, or not, and make it back to the Carrie-Anne before I leave this rock… you still have no way of making it back to the mainland. Unless you are all exceptional swimmers.”

Stephen smiled. “I was leading into that.”

“I suspected,” the captain laughed.

“After your services are finished here, I would like to commission you to take us back… to the mainland.”

“And just how do you expect to pay for this?”

Stephen shook his head and sighed. “With a promise.”

Carl laughed hard. “Well… I’ve not much use for that currency.”

The former school teacher gave him a stern look. “You would be a fool to turn down this promise, Sir. Especially considering how very few people are left. And out of those scattered pockets of humanity, even fewer still would care to come together and start over. Most people would rather kill each other now to get whatever scraps they can get. But I’m telling you, we will rebuild. And I promise you, as long as I live, you will always have a part of it… if you help us get back.”

Captain Carl just stared. He turned to Logan and said, “Does he always talk like this?”

Logan laughed, putting a hand on Stephen’s shoulder. “This one’s a rare find. He still believes in Humanity… the good parts. If my friend says we’re going to rebuild, then I wouldn’t bet against him.”

“Well… I appreciate the optimism. But again, I haven’t survived this long on promises. Sorry, Stephen, but I don’t intend to stick around after my deal with the Red Lady is finished.”

Stephen smiled. “Maybe I’m using the wrong words here. Perhaps what I mean to say is… think about what I’ve proposed as an… investment. An investment in what’s left of our species to overcome and start over. Don’t you want to be a part of it?”

Captain Carl gave Stephen a shrewd look over his pipe and then laughed. “You are persistent if nothing else. I can appreciate that. ‘Investment’.” He mulled over the word while continuing to steer. “That does sound much better than a promise. I will consider it. That’s the best I can do.”

“I’ll take it,” Stephen said. He reached out his hand. “I know this might seem a bit archaic, but back when I was growing up, handshakes still sealed the deal.”

“But we haven’t agreed to anything,” Carl said.

Stephen smiled. “But we have. You just don’t know it yet.”

This made the captain laugh so hard he almost dropped his pipe. He settled down and stared at Stephen’s hand. Finally, he shook his head and said, “Why not.” Then he shook his hand. “Verdict’s still not in on whether I’m shaking a dead man’s hand or not.”

“We’re not dead yet,” Stephen reminded him.

“Amen, little brother,” Logan said. “Amen.”

They rounded the southern tip of the island and turned north along the eastern shoreline.

~~~

Heart pounding in her ears. Out of breath. The scent of rotting murderers invade her nostrils. Leg muscles burning. Dying recruits’ screams from all around her—pleas for mercy ignored. Growls. Violence. Death.

Eyes useless.

The KAR had been swallowed up in darkness.

I am not here, Gina reminded herself. I am the dark.

She commanded her body to become still… silent. No, that wasn’t right. That was impossible. Gina emulated the darkness… hid within it.

But it didn’t matter.

The Nightwalkers would find her.

A shifting sound to her right. Friend or Foe?

Something bumped against her right shoulder. Gina whirled around with her hand axe and struck a monster in the face. It screamed in pain and slithered away.

Two more came at her.

Gina ducked down and jammed her Balato upward into something hard.

A monster cried out in frustration.

Something just missed her face. She felt her hair shift from the clumsy blow. Gina rolled out of that spot and quickly got to her feet.

And then all at once, faint light from the southern doors poured into the KAR as the first recruits opened them wide and started to flee.

The KAR was infested with hungry beasts and dying recruits.

Move! Move now! Gina focused on the light and bolted for the door, slashing at Nightwalker’s while screaming at them with each fierce blow of her axe.

The monsters howled back.

“To the fucking doors!” Gina cried. “Hurry… or we’re dead!”

Some recruits were already ahead of her. She could hear others following. She focused on the doors. She focused on killing anything that stood between herself and those doors.

The monsters attacked from the sides and from behind, knocking recruits to the ground.

More screams.

Suddenly Julianne was beside her, swinging her sword into the darkness like a maniac.

She could see Gilo ahead of her, trying to protect the flank of fleeing recruits.

Kyle was somewhere behind them, still fighting near the center of the KAR.

And then all at once, she was back in the dull light, racing down the hall surrounded by bloody recruits.

The monsters were right behind them. They screamed and slashed at flesh, taking down the recruits near the rear and then dragging their fresh kills back into the KAR… to feed.

Gina glanced once at Julianne who had stopped long enough to attack two monsters who had caught up to them. She sliced at the Nightwalkers with brutal speed, screaming at them more to dispel her own terror. Black blood splattered her face. Other recruits turned to fight. Some continued to run for the southern exit on the other side of the mess hall.

The fiery red head turned back in time to hack into the face of another beast. Then she ducked down and cut into its thigh.

The monster howled in pain and hobbled back.

Most of the Nightwalkers had ripped off their cumbersome armor by now, revealing naked and tortured looking flesh covered in blood. Their red eyes blazed. Their jaws hung open, dripping blood, black bile, and displaying blood-stained razors for teeth.

Several more recruits went down. Gina and the others were falling behind. “Move! Move! MOVE!” she shouted to them. Gina, Julianne and the others whirled around to catch up to the recruits toward the front. They had just reached the end of the last hallway leading into the mess hall.

We’re going to make it! Gina thought.

As if sensing this, the Nightwalkers howled and sprinted after them on all fours. They quickly caught up to their flank and started killing more recruits.

Someone yelled from behind them.

The Nightwalkers turned in time to see a young man in a ponytail, whirl his spear around and stab into them repeatedly.

Gina barely had time to register the young Ama-Eskua recruit’s fierce determination and bravery. Nightwalkers from behind Kyle grabbed at his feet, causing him to lose his balance and fall forward. The others in front of him turned back.

Kyle was immediately swarmed by fifteen Nightwalkers. He was torn to pieces.

“Fuck me!” Gina shouted, turning away.

“He died well,” Julianne said from her right. “May we all die as well.”

Kyle’s sacrifice had bought them a slight lead. Gina and the rest of the recruits cut through the mess hall and reentered another labyrinth of southern hallways, following the sounds of the recruits up front.

By the time they reached the far end of the last hallway leading to the exit, the beasts had caught up.

Gina could see the first recruits reaching the door. Gilo was still with them. He turned back and saw the others. He raced toward Gina’s group with his sword drawn to help defend their flank.

The young Ama-Eskua recruit made it halfway back when the southern exit suddenly exploded, knocking Gilo off his feet. Gina and the others were also thrown to the ground as fire filled the other end of the hall. Debris shot back at them like bullets. A piece of the southern door penetrated the forehead of one recruit, killing him instantly.

The Nightwalkers directly behind Gina’s group caught the blunt of the bright flames, covered their eyes, and temporarily retreated out of the hallway.

As for the recruits near the exit. They were blown to pieces.

Gilo, his legs severely burned, managed to crawl back to the rear group.

Gina and Julianne, covered in cuts, burns and dust from the blast, managed to get up and reach him.

The young man was in so much pain as he coughed up blood. He kept his composure and said to Gina. “You have to… have to… reach the sanctum, now… only way… out. Western hall… the old showers… weak northern wall… other side… sanctum… lower level.” That was all Gilo managed. The young man exhaled his last and stopped moving, his eyes locked in on Gina.

Gina shook her head, trying not to lose it. She turned to Julianne. “Do you know the place he’s talking about?”

Julianne, her sad eyes locked in on the dead young boy warrior, just nodded. “I know it. He’s right. That’s the only chance we have. These beasts are everywhere. If we can get into the sanctum, we might be able to slip in behind them and find a way out.”

Gina nodded and looked back at what remained of her injured and battered recruits. Including herself and Julianne, they were now ten. She looked down the hall behind them. “The flames are holding them back for now. We need to move while they’re stunned. Can we get there from here?”

Julianne nodded. “Back one hall and take a left. That will lead us into the western berthing wing. The old shower room is at the far end. But it’s a dead end. If we can’t breach it… we will die there.”

“We’re going to die in this fucking hallway if we don’t try,” Gina said. “You ready?”

Julianne nodded. “Yes, Lady Gina.”

She turned to the recruits. “Stay strong. Stay brave. We might make it out of this, but we need to keep fucking fighting. Are you still with me?”

The weary recruits started to rise, shaking off their injuries as well as pieces of their blown-up friends. They defiantly raised their weapons in the air.

Gina gave them a fierce proud look, and then raised her bloody axe. “Let’s move.”

~~~

Next Episode 54-12

Previous Episode 54-10

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 54-11: Treachery” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. All Rights Reserved.

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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