Avalon 5.2 Palace Intrigue, part 3 of 5

The night stayed quiet until an hour or so before sunrise.  Alexis regularly squinted across the river, and at the footbridge.  Light elves, who could see in daylight far better than humans, did not have the best eyes in the dark; but their ears could not be fooled at any time.  Alexis and Boston heard the shuffling across the bridge, and heard where the shuffling sound stopped.

Boston said she was glad for Elder Stow’s screens, several times

Alexis agreed, but made Boston concentrate on her lessons and learning.

Not long before the sun began to lighten the horizon, Huyak’s sons came out of the house and ran smack into the screens.  They complained, startled at first, before the elder came to the camp to ask about getting out.

“We have jobs to attend,” he said.  “How can we get there?”

Boston told them to wait a second.  She stepped over beside Elder Stow’s tent and looked at the Screen device.  It was linked to an Anazi device, like a battery of some kind that appeared to be keeping the screens charged.  “Clever,” Boston said, and thought it was like a laptop plugged into the wall.  At the end of the night, the screen device would still be fully charged, and it appeared as if the battery thing would charge up again in the sun.

“A-hem,” Alexis cleared her throat.

“Oh.  Right.” Boston said, and turned off the screens.  The young men ran down the road to town, and only then did Boston realize what she had done.  Alexis caught the idea at the same time, and both sets of eyes and ears turned to the river and the footbridge, where they heard a zombie wail.

“Oh, Crap,” Boston said, and tried to turn the screens back on, but suddenly the device seemed dead, drained of all energy.

Alexis sent a fairy light into the sky to light the area.  She pulled out her wand and made circles in the air in front of her.  The wind came, and it was strong enough to blow several zombies off their feet and into the river, but there seemed too many of them.

“It won’t work,” Boston yelled, before she pulled out her wand and sent her own fairy light up toward the footbridge.  Boston merely pointed her wand, and fire poured out of the tip, like a flamethrower, or dragon breath.  The zombies began to burn, but they were slow to stop moving, and with so many on the bridge, they would soon overwhelm the camp.

“Aim for the bridge,” Alexis said.  She touched Boston’s shoulder, and Boston’s flame thrower trebled in power, the fire being stoked by the added air.

Katie got up and grabbed her rifle.  Lockhart grabbed his shotgun and whistled for the horses.  The horses moved away from the flames and bunched up near Huyak’s house.  Katie fired, and her bullet knocked a zombie down, but she had no illusions that it would stay down.  Suddenly, from over her shoulder, Artie fired her weapon.  It made a streak of yellow light in the dark.  It burned zombies as easily as Boston’s flames.

Elder Stow came stumbling out of his tent because of all the noise, and saw the burning bridge, and so many zombies crossing the water.  He ignored his own screen device and pulled his weapon.  He practically cleaned the bridge with his first shot, as his hand weapon dwarfed Artie’s by many orders of magnitude.

Still they came, and Katie heard Hannahannah say, “Go on child.  You can do it.”

Arinna floated out in front of everyone, and said, “Shut your eyes.”  Everyone heard, and at least Katie thought Hannahannah helped make sure everyone had their eyes closed.  The travelers saw a light as bright as the sun, even with their eyes closed, and they felt the heat, besides, but it was only for a moment.

When the travelers reopened their eyes, and managed to look through their teary, spot-filled vision, they saw small piles of ash where the zombies had been.  They saw steam rising from the river, and later, when the sun came up, they saw the burn marks on the building across the way.  Presently, under Alexis’ and Boston’s fairy lights, and a stronger light that they guessed Hannahannah put up, they saw a dark-haired woman appear who in a way looked much like Arinna, though Arinna had medium brown hair.

“Lelwani,” Hannahannah said the woman’s name in a tone of voice that sounded near a scold.  Lelwani whined.

“Not fair.  I never got a sleepover with a friend when I was her age.  Grandmother, Arinna gets everything she wants, and she burned up all my undead guards.  All my hard work.”

Hannahannah ignored the woman and spoke sweetly to Arinna.  “Time to rise, dear.”

“Yes, Grandmother.”  Arinna turned to the travelers.  “It was lovely to meet you all.  Artie, my friend, remember me,” she said, and faded away as the first wisps of light touched the east.

Four people appeared on the grass and looked around.  One, a woman, stepped forward and spoke.  “Lelwani, what have you been doing?  You are over nine hundred-years-old, but you are sounding and acting like a child.”

Lelwani raised her chin.  “Mother.” she called the new arrival.

The travelers recognized the woman, and Lincoln named her.  “Hebat.”

Hebat turned briefly to the travelers and said, “Hello friends.  Has my daughter been bothering you?”

Lelwani’s chin fell.  She did not know these people were friends with her mother.  She returned to her whine.  “Mother, the man of the Masters said these people were dangerous and I should get rid of them.”

“We do not speak to such people, much less do we listen to them.”  Hebat let out a touch of anger.  “You know better.  And these people are surrounded by a hedge of the gods, which you would have seen if you bothered to look.”

Lelwani looked defeated, and something nearer to the truth came out.  “But mother, I have worked so hard, and my land is still so empty.  The gas the masters are making can fill my land.”

“That is not what you should wish for,” Hebat said, as the three who came with her stepped into the light.  One of the gods spoke; the one with the glasses.

“Your land will fill soon enough until you wonder if there will be room to contain them all.  Then you will weep for those whose days are only a breath, and who, like the flowers of the earth, grow in beauty and fade away so fast.”

The travelers recognized at least two out of three.  Boston called to the one who spoke.  “Enki!”  Enki looked and smiled for her, and pushed up his glasses.

“Enlil,” Lincoln named the other god, but only Katie remembered the third, a goddess.

“Shivishwa.  But you are a cathartic goddess, yourself.”

“In my fashion,” the woman answered.  “But here we are named A’as the wise, Ellil of the sky, and I am Sauska, and I have added healing, not just war to my name.”

“Congratulations,” Katie said, not sure if congratulations were in order.

“Mother.”  Lelwani wanted to get their attention back.

“No more.”  Hebat shook her finger.  “You have no business guarding anything, especially for the Masters.  Forcing spirits to take rotting, decaying flesh is cruel.  You were raised better than that.”

“Mother!” Lelwani vanished in a puff of smoke, and Hebat apologized to the travelers before she and her friends vanished, and they took Hannahannah with them.

“So, the sun is coming up,” Decker said in a flat voice, and looked to put something on the fire to burn for breakfast.

“Why did you switch off the screens, and why didn’t you switch them back on?” Elder Stow asked.

“The boys wanted out,” Alexis said, but she got drowned out by Boston.

“They wouldn’t go back on.  They got drained of all their power.”

Elder Stow examined things closely.  “They are working now, and fully charged.”

Artie came up to Katie and Lockhart, with wide eyes and shaking.  “Arinna is a goddess,” she said.

“Yes, dear,” Katie answered and hugged her.

“Goddess of the sun, I would guess,” Lockhart said, and offered a hug of his own before he retrieved his blanket and went into his tent.  Katie and Lockhart said nothing to each other, but neither complained about the night’s sleeping arrangement.

“What?” Boston came up with a question.

“I had a sleepover,” Artie said, happy again.  “That is what Katie called it.”

“And I missed it?”  Boston turned to Alexis.

“You’re not that young,” Alexis said, as she paused to give Lincoln a good-morning kiss.

An hour later, as the temperature began to rise, Decker had another comment.  “I haven’t seen Huyak, his wife or daughters come out of the house.”

People looked, and Elder stow spoke.  “It has been bothering me,” he said.  “Huyak seemed very interested in my things, and asked a lot of questions, which in hindsight, suggests he knew more about things than he said.”

“How could he have known anything at all about your gadgets?” Lockhart asked.

Katie agreed.  “Your equipment should have appeared magical and incomprehensible to someone in this day and age.”

“The sons came conveniently to get the screens turned off before dawn, when two women were the only watchers and everyone else was sleeping,” Boston said.

“Early morning does not prove anything,” Alexis countered.  “Nor does the fact that the zombies were just outside the screens at that point, ready to attack.”

“Suspicious,” Decker said.

“Convenient, as Boston said,” Lockhart did not disagree.  “But all circumstantial evidence.  Coincidence.”

“Well, someone is the man of the Masters,” Lincoln said.

“And making the gas that can fill the land of the dead,” Katie added.  “Mustard gas?  Where was it Balor said they were making the mustard gas in his day?”

“Somewhere up this way,” Lincoln said.

“Maybe we should cross the river and look in the building over there that the Zombies were guarding in the dark of night,” Katie said, as she turned to Lockhart to get his approval.  Lockhart said nothing for the moment and looked at Decker, Lincoln, and Elder Stow, the ones most likely to object to getting involved for one reason or another.  The rest waited quietly.

“It isn’t our job,” Lockhart said.  “Our job is to get back to the twenty-first century, and the Kairos often makes us move on before we get in the middle of whatever is happening.”

“We moved on before we found out what happened to my people,” Artie said.  People looked at her, but she seemed okay with it.  “I trusted Balor,” she said.  “I knew he would do better and more than I could even think to ask.”

Alexis patted her hand.  “Sometimes the Kairos does too much and works too hard.”

“Amphitrite would not let us near the trouble in her day,” Lincoln agreed with Lockhart.

“Not counting the pirates who tried to steal all our things,” Alexis countered with a true elf grin for her husband.

“We should just ride on to get to the next gate,” Lockhart said, as a suggestion, not a decision.

“I say we go look and do what we can,” Decker said.

“Mine is not that kind of scanner,” Eder Stow admitted, as he had been staring at the device for some time.  “I cannot analyze the material they are making inside the building without a sample, but I can tell you, they are definitely manufacturing something.  And I can pinpoint exactly how many and where there are people in and around the building.”

“We go look?” Katie asked.

Lockhart agreed.  “But we need to decide in advance what we will do if they are making the mustard gas.”

Avalon 5.2 Palace Intrigue, part 2 of 5

“Can I see the zombie?” Artie asked, sweetly.  Her eyes were trained on the river where Major Decker shot the one that collapsed back into the water.

Katie raised her eyebrows.  “Teenage curiosity,” she called it.  “Don’t go bloodthirsty on me.”

Artie paused to consider what bloodthirsty meant.  Katie kept her elect senses flared, not only toward the river, but all around the camp, in case the zombies should come from the town, or along the shore in either direction.

Huyak hovered over Elder Stow’s shoulder, having sent his wife, sons and daughters back to the house.  Elder Stow worked on his screen device, preparing to set a particle screen around the camp that the zombies could not pass through.  In order to keep it up all night, though, he needed to charge the batteries, as he said.  He mostly worked with the pieces of equipment he gathered from the crashed Anazi fighter ship in the time zone before the last.  Huyak seemed fascinated.

Katie turned to look at the one girl Huyak left in camp.  She looked to be about Artie’s age of sixteen, and the thought crossed Katie’s mind to wonder why Huyak had not sent her to bed with the others.  The girl spoke to Katie, like she was reading Katie’s mind.

“Oh, I’m not Huyak’s daughter.”  She smiled and sat closer to Artie, as Artie continued her own thought.

“Because I have seen dead people before, but not with my human eyes.  It was different back then.  I wasn’t one of them.”  She turned to the girl and explained.  “I only just found out that death is not the end of everything.  My goddess, Anath-Rama has made a place for me and my people, and I thank her and praise her every day.”

The girl nodded.  “Anath-Rama is very nice, though a generation or two older than I am.”

“I am sure the place is wonderful,” Artie continued, wistfully.  “Edward is with her now.”

“Was he your boyfriend?” the girl asked.

“I’m not sure,” Artie answered, honestly.  “He might have been.  We didn’t get the chance to find out.”

“I’m going to have a boyfriend,” the girl said.  “I just have to figure out who it is going to be.”

“That would be interesting.  I had not thought of that.  Maybe I should get one.”

The girl nodded and looked up at Katie.  “My name is Arinna.”  She immediately looked down, like she got scolded.  Katie said the words after the fact.

“It is not polite to read people’s minds and answer before they have a chance to ask the question.”

“Yes,” Arinna said.  “But that is why I came to see you.  I can’t read your minds very well at all, and I got…curious?”

The hedge of the gods, Katie thought.

“That’s right,” Artie said.  “I can’t read minds at all, but I would be curious.  I am curious about a lot of things, since I became human.”

“What do you mean, became human?”

“I was born an android,” Artie said, with some pride.  “That is what Elder Stow calls us.”

“A machine,” Katie said, to Arinna’s curious face.  The word machine did not help much, either.

“You became human?”

“The goddess, Amphitrite changed me from a machine to a human.  I got like real hair and everything.”

“Wow, I didn’t know the gods could do that.”

“It felt strange, but good, like I was waiting my whole life to become human.  Like I should have been human my whole life.”

“Wow.  That must have taken great skill and ability.  I can’t do anything like that.”

“Can my friend stay with us tonight…mom?” Artie asked, with a hopeful look.

“It would be all right.  My…mom would not mind,” Arinna said, with the same hope written all over her face.

“A sleepover,” Katie said, and to Arinna she added, “And I am not asking who your mom is.”  She paused, a dramatic effect, but she needed a second to imagine this happening some day with her own daughter, and wondered what Dad-Lockhart might say.  “I suppose it would be all right.”

“Yea!” the girls shouted, and held hands, truly more like six-year-olds than sixteen-year-olds.

“Maybe I can help.”  An older woman stepped into the fire light, and Arinna jumped up to hug her.  “Hannahannah,” she called the woman, before she turned and introduced her.  “This is my grandmother.”

“Don’t worry, Katie, I will watch them,” Hannahannah said.  “Come along, Artie.  A growing young girl needs her rest.”  Artie popped up, took Arinna’s hand again, and the two went into the tent, both talking at the same time.  “Not that I expect to get any rest,” Hannahannah added, as she followed them.

“There.”  Elder stow announced, and Katie turned her attention to the Gott-Druk and Huyak.

“And nothing will be able to penetrate these invisible screens?”  Huyak sounded fascinated.

“Correct,” Elder stow said.

“Will I be able to get back to my house?  My wife will be missing me.”

“Of course,” Elder Stow said, and smiled.  “I included your house in the screen area of protection.  You will have to see us if you or your sons want to go out before dawn, but that should not be a problem.”

Huyak nodded and waddled off to his house.  Lockhart came out of his tent and said, “A nice one hour nap and I’m ready to go.”

“Nine o’clock?” Katie asked, surprised.

“You can get some sleep,” he said.

Katie harrumphed, stepped into Lockhart’s tent and stole his blanket, then went to lie down beside the fire.

“What?” he asked.

“Our little girl is having a sleepover,” Katie said, and Lockhart quickly looked at Artie and Katie’s tent.  “The girl’s name is Arinna.”  Lockhart looked again at Katie.  “I would guess she is a young goddess, but I would guess it will be okay.  The girl’s grandmother is with them.”

“Oh, okay,” Lockhart looked once more at the tent.  “If you think it will be okay.”

Katie grinned as she lay down and imagined her and Lockhart having a daughter, and him having that same silly, uncomprehending look on his face.

Lockhart sat quietly, watched Katie sleep, and kept the fire fed.  Elder Stow joined him, and they enjoyed the quiet of the night for over an hour.  When the moon rose, so did the sounds.  They came from the footbridge, and from across the river.  Zombies wailed and moaned, like ghosts in the dark.

“They are protesting, I imagine,” Elder Stow said.

“Yes,” Lockhart agreed.  “But I was thinking, they could only have been raised and activated by one of the gods.  If the god wants them on this side of the river, I can’t imagine your strongest screens will keep them out.”

“You might be surprised,” Elder Stow said.  “According to Yu-Huang, there is almost nothing the gods cannot do, but that does not mean everything is easy.  Some things are easy as breathing.  Some require learning, like learning to ride a bicycle or learning to read.  Young gods and goddesses don’t automatically know how to do everything.  Far from it.  They have to learn, like any children.  And then, some things are like scholarly tomes or higher mathematics.  There are some things that some, maybe many gods will never learn how to do.”

Lockhart slowly nodded, but then he said, “I don’t suppose any screen can prevent a god from appearing wherever he wants.  If he can’t figure out how to get the zombies through your defenses, no reason he could not appear here and simply turn the screens off.”

“If he thinks to do that,” Elder Stow said, but he went back to sit beside his equipment.

When the end of the shift came at midnight, and Decker and Lincoln got up for the wee hours, Elder Stow felt more confident that his screen defense would make it to morning.  He told Lincoln what was necessary and went to bed.

Lockhart looked at the tent he shared with Lincoln, but remembered Katie had his blanket.  He looked once more at the tent where Artie was, and all seemed quiet.  He took a deep breath, and lied down beside Katie.  Katie slung the blanket over him.  He put his arms around her.  Katie wondered in her sleep filled mind why they were not together every night.  Lockhart wondered what he did or said that caused them to separate.  He could not remember.  He didn’t want to be separated.  He loved this woman.  He feared for a moment that he might not be able to sleep for thinking about it, but soon enough he began to breathe long, slow breaths, and Katie snuggled into his arms.

Avalon 5.2 Palace Intrigue, part 1 of 5

After 1583 BC Syria, by the Euphrates.  Kairos 61: Notere of the Hittites

Recording…

“Carchemish,” Lincoln announced the name of the town. before he added, “I’m pretty sure.”

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, as he guided the group down a steep path and up to the gate.

Katie rolled her eyes, but Artie spoke.  “Carchemish.”  She got her horse over a rough spot, and continued.  “That reminds me.  I had the strangest dream last night.”  Katie showed she was listening.  “I dreamed I was flying, without a ship or parachute, like a fairy, but without the wings.  Then I started to fall, and it got frightening.  I woke up.”

“I had a flying dream once,” Lincoln said.  “No idea why.”

“Do you know what it means?” Artie looked to Katie, who shook her head.

“Ask the nurse,” she said, and pointed behind her.

Artie turned to face Alexis, but Alexis spoke first while Artie remembered that Alexis had become an elf again, for a time.  She looked the same, but different.

“When I took my nursing courses, I had not been human very long,” Alexis said.  “I thought it was not right for me to be analyzing humans, since my father told me they are all crazy.  I still think he was right, sometimes.”

“I hear that,” Decker mumbled from the back where he and Elder Stow had pulled in to join the column.

“I like flying dreams,” Boston said, and Artie nodded.

“But not the falling part.”

They came to the gate and had to stop.  The gate guards were checking everyone, for something.

“Got anything to declare?” Lockhart whispered, as he got down.  The guards looked up at him, so he added, “How can I help you?”

“Stick out your hands,” the man ordered.  Lockhart did, and the man turned one hand palm up, pressed on the ball of the thumb and watched it push back into place.  He turned the hand over and rubbed the back to see what came off.  Then he looked hard into Lockhart’s eyes to make sure someone was home.  Three other guards checked Lincoln, Katie and Artie.

“You see?” Artie said.  “I’m human.  I have human hands.”  She sounded so happy, but then the young man checking her reached out to squeeze her breast.  He had a big grin, but Artie shouted.  “Hey!”

“Hey,” Katie shouted the same, and Lockhart turned, grabbed the man by the shoulder and threw him to the ground.

“What is this all about?” Lockhart demanded.  The travelers looked angry, and the guards hesitated, not prepared to start a fight in the gate.

The chief guard gave his young man a hard look before answering.  “We have had dead people getting up and walking around.”  He said that with a straight face.  “I saw one.  There is nothing behind the eyes, and they fall apart in the hands and feet.  I’m not likely to make you take your shoes off.”

“Zombies,” Alexis said.

The walking dead,” Boston corrected her.

“Lelwani is angry,” one of the guards said, and nodded.

The chief guard looked at the four not checked, the two women, who wore glamours to appear like ordinary humans, the Gott-Druk, who also disguised himself with an illusion, and the big African who looked ready to growl.  The chief guard could not see through the illusion, but he saw something.

“These are clean,” he announced, and the other guards backed off.  “So, what is your business in Allepo?”

“Darn,” Lincoln interrupted.  “I was close,” he insisted.

“Trade,” Lockhart said.  “And a chance to sleep the night out of the wilderness.  We will see how good your hospitality is.”

The guard nodded.  They were on the main trade route.  “Go down this way to the square and ask for a man named Huyak.  He will know where you can room, or set your tents if you would rather.”

“Thank you,” Lockhart said, and the travelers walked their horses into the city to the sound of Artie’s voice.

“How can dead people walk around?”

“Very powerful magic,” Alexis said.  “Or in this age, a cathartic god with an agenda, or one that is being lazy.”

“She,” Katie said.  “Lelwani is a goddess of the dead.”

“I wonder if she is friends with Anath-Rama,” Boston asked.  They did not know, but Artie smiled at the mention of her own, personal goddess.

Huyak turned out to be an old man who solved one riddle right away.  “My eldest son sent you from the gate,” he said.  He took them to an open field beside the river and beside his own house where they could pitch their tents and light a fire.  The place for the fire was already marked out with a circle of big stones.  “You are here to trade, but you have no wagons or camels and donkeys to carry your goods.”  He sounded curious.

“Decker,” Lockhart said, but Decker had already started to unwrap the deer tied to the back of his horse.  The man stroked his beard and called for two others.  The travelers guessed he had more sons.

“And in return?”

“A chance to stay here for a couple of nights, undisturbed.”  They would likely move on in the morning, but it was better to have some wiggle room, and not specify exactly what a couple of nights amounted to.

“And some vegetables,” Alexis spoke up.  “And not all onions.”  She turned to Boston.  “I would kill for some greens.”

“I believe we have a bargain,” Huyak said, and he waved to the boys to pick up the beast.  They had a wagon handy, and hauled it off to disappear down the street.  “You camp, and I will be back with things to eat, and my own brew.  It is very good.”

“Good thing,” Katie said.  “I am beginning to mistrust the water.”

As soon as Huyak got out of sight, Decker and Elder Stow got the other deer down from the back of Elder Stow’s horse.  They took a moment to set their tents in a circle around the fireplace; not that they needed the fire for warmth, but it was safer to watch each other and not spread out too far.  That did not take long.  The tents were balls of fairy weave that set themselves up on voice command.  Alexis set up a tent for her and Boston, without having to speak out loud to get it to take shape.  She began to teach Boston how to do that.

They had wood in satchels on other horses, and Boston started the fire.  Her magic was fire based, so it was easy for her.  Then they tended the horses and let them wander down to the river, to drink.  By the time Huyak returned, Alexis and Katie had deer roasting and hot water ready for tea.  They used a little hot water for bread crackers, which became loaves of bread.  They shared some with Huyak and his sons when they returned from the market, and eventually with Huyak’s whole household, and Huyak kept them well supplied in fruits and vegetables, such as he had, and beer that Lincoln said was not terrible.

As the sun set, a ghostly wail came up from the river.  “They are out tonight,” Huyak said, and his eyes went to the rickety wooden footbridge someone had built across the slow-moving water.  “They stay on the other side around the place where the ground stinks of garlic.  They appear to avoid the water.”

“That would make them decay and fall apart faster,” Alexis said, and Artie looked at her with questions on her face.  “Zombies, sweetheart.”  Artie shivered, as did Boston and Lincoln.

“So, we should be safe in this side of the river.” Lincoln said, but it was honestly a question.

“I didn’t say that,” Huyak said, as his wife, two sons and two daughters came from the house to hear what stories these strangers might have to tell.  Storytelling was once the height of the entertainment business.  Sadly, like getting an important phone call during the last few minutes of a television movie, sometimes life got in the way.

They heard gunfire, and the locals jumped. Decker had pulled the trigger.  They heard a body plop back into the river.  “I wouldn’t have shot, but his left arm was nothing but bone.”

“Oh,” Lockhart said.  “Watch tonight.  Katie and Artie first.  Elder Stow, you are with me.  Decker, you get Lincoln…”

“Boston and I will take sunrise,” Alexis agreed, and then squinted because it appeared Huyak now had three daughters instead of two.

The Elect 21, part 4 of 4: A Person of Magic

When they were ready, they crashed into the back room.  There was an assembly line of sorts run by three people.  A girl sat in a chair nearby.  She looked totally drained, like she had worked a triple shift without a break.  Two men in white lab coats stood by a whiteboard, reviewing something on a clipboard.  Two soldiers with rifles paced.  They were the ones who turned and fired.ac lab man

Emily ducked under the nearest table and slowly worked her way over to the girl who was not moving.  She feared that surely the girl would be shot in the hail of bullets before it was over.  Two more soldiers came out of an office at the back, and it was going to take some work to put them down.

The police, though, were up to the task, having dealt with drug lords and kingpins of various stripes and their private armies.  Emily reached the girl before it was over and dragged her to the floor.  She gasped.  She recognized this girl.

“Melissa?”  They had not heard from her in three weeks.  Maria was worried and talked about calling the girl’s parents in Vermont just before the attack.

ac Melissa 8The girl opened her eyes, though they were barely a slit open.  It was enough for her to recognize the face in front of her.  “Emily?”  She began to cry and reached out to hug Emily and cry on her shoulder.

Someone let the zombies out of their cage, and someone else shouted, “No, not that one.”  There was a response, but Emily could not make it out over the gunfire.  Then the gunfire stopped as police, soldiers and workers had their hands full.  Three zombies came straight for the chair and the girls.

“Stay here,” Emily said and she was up and had the first beheaded and stabbed in no time.  She had learned a lot since they attacked her at the shooting range.  The second took only a moment longer, and the third was steps away, but Emily stopped when Melissa shouted.

“Not that one!”  Emily looked.  Melissa had dragged herself up by holding on to the chair so she could watch.  “Wired,” Melissa said.  Emily understood.  It meant if she struck at the head or the heart it would simply set off the explosive.  Some of the other combatants heard and backed away as well.  But Melissa was not finished.  She stared at the oncoming zombie, her cheeks flushed a zombies 2with blood, her limbs shivered from some strain.  She raised one hand ever so slowly before she said one more word.  “Enough.”  The zombie stopped dead still.  All of the zombies in the room stopped.  Then the one that was wired opened its mouth and made a sound like a whale cry.  It only lasted a second before it and all the others collapsed.  It was the only sound Emily had ever heard a zombie make.

Melissa also collapsed, and Emily shouted.  “Melissa!”  She dropped her sword and rushed to the girl.  She caught her just before Melissa cracked her head on the concrete floor.  The poor girl’s eyes rolled up, like she was dead herself, but she was still breathing, if barely.

“Call an ambulance!” Emily shouted to the room, heedless of what was going on.  In fact, the soldiers and workers surrendered at that point and Lisa came over with Emily’s sword.

Lisa took the girl from Emily’s arms and held her and mothered her while they waited for the ambulance.  She had some words for Emily at the same time.  “You must clean your weapon first.  Hasn’t Heinrich taught you anything?”  She grinned and added for Melissa, “There, there.  Rest and sleep.”

ac maria 1Melissa slept until mid-morning.  Emily and Maria called her frantic parents, and it helped when Detective Lisa got on the line.  It seemed Melissa came down to the school for a week to re-acclimate herself.  That was three weeks ago.  She sent a few quick messages home that said she was enjoying herself and had to register and get her schedule and other things ready for the following fall.  She asked about summer classes, and her parents thought everything was fine; but the communication ended five days ago, and they were getting worried, given what happened last time.  The truth was, she never made it to the campus at all.

By mid morning, everyone was there to hear the story.  All but Emily and Amina looked like casualties of war.  Jessica had her arm in a sling and Lisa had fresh bandages on hers since she reopened the wound during the battle and this time she needed some stitches to keep it closed.  Maria still had a bandage on the back of her head and was afraid her hair might never grow back. Mindy had little bandages everywhere and was only awaiting the time when she could once again soak in the tub.

Melissa sat up in bed but it was clear she was a long way from recovered.  The doctor said he wanted to keep her at least another day under observation.  He said he never saw a person so depleted of everything the way she was.

“I told them I did not have that kind of power,” Melissa said, “but they insisted.  They threatenedac melissa 6 me and my family if I didn’t cooperate.  It was a good thing Professor Swenson’s formula did most of the work.  All they needed me for was the initial spark.  Even that nearly killed me.”

“I didn’t know you had any power at all,” Maria said.

Amina interjected.  “The witch arranged to have another witch for a roommate.”

“Person of magic, if you don’t mind,” Melissa said.  “She liked the idea that when my family first came to America so long ago we lived in Salem.  But when she found out how little magic I actually had, she threw me out.  I understand that now.”

Emily was reserved.  Her only experience with a person of magic was not a good one.

“So now you are one of us,” Amina said, but she looked at Emily, aware of the reservation there.

Emily looked back at them all but said nothing.

“Come on,” Maria said.  “It’s not like she has AIDS or something.”

Emily thought AIDS might be easier for her to deal with, but at last she said, “Alright.  Welcome to the club.”

Melissa, who had been waiting in uncertainty got the happiest smile, and Mindy and Maria joined her.  Amina offered a correction.  “Welcome to the Amazon tribe.”

ac jessica 6Jessica offered another thought.  “Yet one more thing I am not best at.”

“You’re best at boys,” Mindy said.  “That is what I want to get good at.”  Lisa, Emily, and Maria all smiled.  Melissa did not know what to say.  Amina turned red, like she was thinking the same thing but did not want to say it aloud.

“I don’t know,” Jessica countered with a look at Emily.  “You really only have to be good with one, if it is the right one.”  They all looked at Emily, but she closed her eyes.  After a moment, she stepped out into the hall because she could not stop crying.

The Elect 21, part 3 of 4: Zombie Lab

Latasha’s neighbor took her and her mama home, though Latasha argued.  Lisa convinced her, and it was not hard, that she still needed some serious healing time.  Josh and the kids dropped Maria at the university and even helped her find her new room.  Josh argued that Lisa needed healing time herself, but she put him off with a kiss.ac lisa 2a

“After the fight at the library before Christmas, the whole police force will be there to close this shop.  I won’t have to do anything, but I need to be there, even if I just observe.”

Josh could not really argue, and he knew it was as close as he was going to get to a promise that she would not do anything.  He simply took a deep breath and corralled the kids to help Maria.

Emily got in the back seat.  They had to go to the Hive for her to get her bearings.  They drove part way into the alley, but she made them stop with a bit of a walk left.  She told them about the guards with rifles stationed by the warehouse doors.

As they snuck up, they saw a red pick-up drive out the back of the alley on to the residential street.  They also saw one guard, and he was indeed armed with a military rifle.  Back at the car, Lisa got on the radio.  This was going to have to be organized on the fly, but mostly it was going to require silence on the part of those participating.  When she was satisfied, she led them back to the observation spot behind the dumpster.

aa alleyway dumpster 2“I should go,” Emily insisted.  “You are still injured whether you admit it or not.  We don’t want you to start bleeding again.”

“No, the fact that I am injured is precisely the reason I should go,” Lisa said and stepped out before anyone could stop her.  Lisa limped, though she did not have to.  She had opened the top button on the soft dress Josh had brought her to wear home.  She looked carefully as the man on the warehouse dock stood and came to the edge of the dock, gun cradled in his arms, but ready.

“Hi,” she said.  “Haven’t I seen you at the Hive?”

“No,” the man shook his head.

Lisa used her presumably good hand to open her dress and expose a little more of herself before she waved her hand in front of her face.  “I’m hot for April,” she said.  She was a very fine looking aa warehouse dock 1woman.  The man smiled.

“Going home?” he asked.  “Wandering through these alleys is not advised.”

“I just live over there,” she lied and moved up to where she could rest her arms on the dock at his feet.  “Over there,” she pointed, but he did not look.  “Ouch.”  Lisa lifted her bandaged hand to the dock, and the man had the decency to ask.

“What happened?”

“A Doberman got frisky.  I’m afraid of big dogs.”  That was true enough.  “You?”

The man shook his head.  “I have a shepherd.  My family has always had big dogs.”

Lisa shivered.  “Maybe I should go back to the Hive.”

ac li guard“Maybe you should go home,” the man suggested, and this time he looked as he pointed to the alley exit.  That look was all Lisa needed.  She grabbed both of the man’s legs and yanked him off the dock.  She struck him with her good fist and as he fell, she managed to hold on to the man’s rifle.

Emily and Ashish came right up, and before the man could get his jaw to work in order to yell the alarm, Ashish had his gun to the man’s head.  The man did make one attempt to grab Ashish’s gun, but Emily stomped on the man’s shoulder which took him to the pavement where he hit his head.  Emily immediately thought of Maria and felt bad, but this man did not go unconscious and he did not start bleeding.  He was dizzy, though, when two police cars came up as quietly as they could.

Lisa grabbed the radio microphone from the first car and said simply, “Go.”  Then she hopped up on the platform and headed for the door.  Emily, Ashish and three of the police officers followed.  The fourth kept their prisoner on ice.  He duct-taped the man’s mouth and handcuffed him.  It was unorthodox, true, but then so were the walking dead.

They got inside easily enough.  The door let them into an unused section of the warehouse, no a trenton police 8doubt designed to throw off any investigation.  But there was a big back room and Emily could smell the green gloop from the door.  She was glad they went by the university first so she could pick-up her sword.  She drew it as several more police officers came in quietly from the other side of that big unused room.

Lisa nodded to the others and pointed to the back.  She risked a whisper for Emily.  “You were not elected to kill people.  You are welcome to take out any zombies you want.”  Emily understood.

The Elect 21, part 2 of 4: Walking Wounded

The morning Jessica and Mindy were released from the hospital, the university had temporary housing for Jessica in a room in the towers.  Mindy still technically had a bed in Connie’s room.  She handled it well.  She told Connie to keep her hands and things to herself and leave her alone and Connie did not argue.

Jessica’s new, temporary roommate griped at being gypped out of a single room.  In fact, when Jessica arrived she found the door had a dresser pushed up to it to prevent her from getting in.  ac jessica 8Jessica certainly could not do anything about it with only one arm, but Emily was glad to help out.  She easily opened the door, even if the dresser crashed to the floor.  She grabbed the girl’s boyfriend by the collar and tossed him down the hall.  Then she prevented the girl from following her boyfriend with a strong hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“You will accommodate Jessica and see she gets her rest so she can heal.  Am I clear?”  The girl said nothing.  She simply nodded, but her eyes were looking around Emily’s shoulder.  It was not necessary.  Emily felt the presence and kicked out behind.  She caught the boyfriend right in the gut and he moaned and doubled over before he fell to his knees.  “No more boyfriend in the room.  I mean it,” she said and let the girl go.  The girl went straight to the boy and Emily leaned down to whisper in the boy’s ear.  “Meet her in the student center.  This room is now off limits.”

After that, Emily picked up the dresser and set it against the wall where it belonged.  She helped Jessica unpack what she had left that was not blown up and destroyed.  Then she went in search of Pierce, but she could not find him.  She was frustrated when she got back to Amina’s room.

The next morning, Maria, Latasha and Lisa were released together.  Emily met them at the hospital where Ashish offered to drive her and Maria home.  Ms Barton came with a neighbor to pick up Latasha, and of course Josh and all three kids were there for Lisa.

ac maria 5They talked while they waited for the required wheelchairs.  At one point Maria asked Lisa if Julie Tam found out anything more after the genetic testing information.

“What genetic testing?”  Emily asked.  She stayed near Maria and was very glad to see her recovering.  Besides the concussion, she had serious bleeding in the back of her head, always a bad and dangerous sign.

“I told you, didn’t I?’  Maria was not sure.  Emily shook her head, and Maria remembered.  “That’s right.  I just found out and told the others, but you weren’t there.  Julie determined that the samples the person was taking from the old people who died could only have been for genetic testing.”

Emily felt something fall in the pit of her stomach.  She stepped away without a word, but not without a few stares from some of those around her.  She got out her phone and dialed.  Pierce had only answered his phone occasionally in the last few days, and she only saw him once, briefly.  He seemed to be very busy, but this time he picked up.

“Hello?  Emily?”  She did not know what to say.  “Emily, are you there?”ab phone

Emily took a deep breath.  “Doctor Zimmer is responsible in some way for the deaths of all those old people, isn’t he?”  There was a long pause before Emily heard the answer.

“Yes.”

“That was why you were able to find the body by the engineering building, and why you found the first one in the construction site, isn’t it?”  The pause was not so long this time.

“Yes.”

“And this is all connected to the contest in some way, isn’t it?”  Emily’s intuition was driving on full steam.

“Yes.”  This time Emily was the one who paused.  Pierce had to react.  “Emily?”

“You know where the zombie lab is, don’t you?”

ac pierce 8“Yes, I do.  I was ordered not to tell you, though I wanted to.  I was not ordered to keep you away or admit it if you asked.  Please believe me.  I wanted to tell you.”

“Pierce,” Emily cut him off.  “Don’t be there when we arrive.”

“Emily?”

“Just don’t be there.”

“I love you,” Pierce said, but Emily hung up and now had everyone’s attention.

“I know where the zombie lab is.”

The Elect 18, part 4 of 4: Amazons

Jessica and Maria walked out front.  Amina and Mindy followed behind like a couple of shadows.  Jessica complained.  “I hurt.”

Maria knew what to say.  “Did I mention you look great?”

Jessica frowned and then grinned, “I know,” She showed herself a little before she frowned again.  “That Schultz is a slave driver.”

“I’m enjoying it,” Mindy said.  Of them all, Mindy was the shortest and smallest, like the runt of theab archery 2 litter, but she had the energy one might expect from looking at her fire red hair.  Maria was almost five foot four, and Amina was closer to Emily’s height of five-six.  Mindy shaded her eyes as she looked up at Jessica.  “If I can, you can.”  She put on her determined face.  “Anyway, I especially like the archery.”  They had convinced Professor Schultz to let them have that much of a weapon, and the padded staffs.

“That’s because you are good at it.”  Jessica looked down at the girl and was determined to be grumpy.

“But you’re better,” Mindy said.  “You are better at everything as far as I can tell.  No weak spots.”

Jessica shook her head.  “I don’t think I am best at anything.  That is probably why Professor Schultz rides me so much.”

“So, what are you suggesting?”  Maria poked at Jessica with her elbow.  “Do you want a real weapon like Emily’s sword?”

“It wouldn’t hurt,” Jessica responded.  “At least to learn how to use a knife, what with the zombies around again.”

Maria stopped, so they all stopped.  “But nothing has turned up since the restaurant,” Maria pointed out.

ac jessica 6“Jessica,” Mindy looked up.  “How tall are you, really?”

“Five-seven and a half,” Jessica said.  “I used to model in high school.  Back then I was almost five-ten.”  Jessica grinned again.

“I think you need something more like a spear,” Mindy suggested.  “That would suit your height and long arms.”

“And you know?”

Mindy’s determination turned quickly to a pout.  “I read.  I know some things.  I’ve studied these things, though I must say there is nothing like first-hand experience.”

“Maybe Jessica needs a ten foot pole,” Maria suggested

“Not funny.”  Jessica reached for Maria, but Maria slapped her hand away and took a short step back.  If it was not for the book bags, the two looked like they might go for a friendly tussle right there.  “It’s not right.”  Jessica let out her full-fledged, parental approved whiney voice.  “You are really kicking with the karate, Mindy hits the bull’s-eye almost always and even Amina has the staff down pat.  I bet if they didn’t have those pillows on each end, she could really do some damage.  I repeat, I am not best at anything.”  The others did not know how to respond because as far as they could tell, Jessica was best at everything, not counting Emily, of course.

“But there is nothing Professor Schultz has shown us so far that you are bad at.” Amina spoke for the first time and tried to be encouraging, but Mindy spoke overtop.

“You are best at the running part.” ab ar jog 2

“And something else,” Amina stopped.  As soon as she stopped, Mindy and the others stopped and turned to listen to what Amina had to say.

“You are very good at everything.  We all have weaknesses.”

“That is true,” Maria confirmed, and Mindy nodded.  Jessica also knew that was true, but it was not enough.  She wanted to be best at something and have no doubts in her mind.  She started to walk again so the others started with her.  “More important,” Maria was not finished with her thought.  “There are side benefits here.  I never felt so strong and capable in my life.  For the first time I feel like I could actually do something if I had to.”

“Like help somebody in need,” Mindy offered.

“Yes, and maybe not end up a victim in a bad situation.”

Jessica nodded but added another note.  “More important, there is so much going on around here that most people don’t know about, like dead bodies of old people showing up everywhere.  Emily is probably the only one who can do something about that, but she can’t do it alone.  She needs us to back her up.  I get that.”  They all understood.

ac julie1“Did I mention I heard from Julie Tam?”  Maria changed the subject.  They stopped walking again and looked at her, except Amina who appeared content to look at the ground.  “She says given the anatomical slices taken with surgical precision from the old bodies, it looks to her like someone may be doing some genetic testing.”

“That was English?”  Jessica made it a joke, but no one laughed.  Mindy took a look at Amina and spoke her concern.

“Are you alright?”  She reached out and touched Amina gently on her arm to get her attention.

Amina looked up and needed a few seconds to bring her eyes into focus.  “I see trouble ahead.  I see death beyond the great white light.  I do not know what that means.”

“Emily?”  Maria asked.

“No,” Amina assured her.  “It has something to do with us, but I can’t get a clear picture.  All I can see is trouble up ahead.  I have to work on it.”

“I see trouble ahead.”  Jessica pointed to the dorm door.  Connie, her friend Lilly, and a half-dozen other women were standing there, waiting.

“Hate men parade,” Mindy said under her breath.  No one scolded her for telling the truth.ac mindy 5

“Emily’s not here,” Maria said, as they got close.

“I know,” Connie said.  “We just came to pick up Mindy and Amina for the meeting.”

“What meeting?’  Maria asked.  She closed ranks with Jessica.  Mindy and Amina were still behind them.

“I quit your club,” Mindy said.

“I never joined,” Amina added.

“Sorry,” Jessica smiled, but put down her book bag.  She did not like the tension in the air.

Maria did the same, but paused.  There was someone in the corner, watching.  Mindy saw her, too.  The woman was twenty-something, so not likely an undergraduate.  She stood about five foot, eight, had long light brown hair and deep-set green eyes.  She was also intensely beautiful, but the thing that attracted their eyes was the woman’s dress.  She was wearing what Mindy called a peplos, a style of Greek dress that was ancient.

Connie returned Jessica’s smile.  “Look, you are giving us a bad reputation.  I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

The woman smiled at Maria and Mindy.

ac lilly 1“I do,” Lilly said and she took a swing at Jessica, the big one.  It was a right hook, but a very sloppy punch.  Jessica simply tilted her head back a little and the fist completely missed her face.  She pushed the arm to continue Lilly’s movement in that direction.  She put a foot on Lilly’s butt and shoved.  Lilly sprawled into the other women and took two to the ground with her.

“See?”  Maria’s attention was taken by the action, and she spoke to Jessica.  “You did that very well.”  She finished putting down her book-bag, just in case.

“You bitches!”  Rage and frustration poured out of Connie.  She shoved Maria out of the way and went straight for her roommate, Mindy.  Mindy was the least practiced of them all, being new to the workouts and training offered by Professor Schultz, but she was already convinced that pulling hair and scratching at the face was not a good technique.  She also knew that women did not have the upper body strength of a man, but could use their legs to great advantage.  She practiced her scissor kick, first on Connie’s knee and then on her hip.

Connie felt it, but her rage moved her forward, her hands still outstretched to grab Mindy’s hair.  Mindy, the little one merely ducked, moved forward under the arm and threw whatever upper body strength she had into one punch.  It landed in Connie’s side, in the ribs below the arm.  Connie fell to her knees, then shouted and fell to the side as she reached for her hurt knee.  Mindy simply picked up her backpack and stepped up beside Maria and Jessica who were keeping the other women away with their stares.ab angry look 1

“Book bags,” Maria said, and they picked up their bags and entered the dorm talking like they had never been interrupted, but Mindy took a glance to the side.  The woman was gone.

“So, I guess that was the trouble you saw?”  Maria turned to Amina.

“No, something else.”  Amina shook her head and seemed oblivious to what just happened.  “I have to think about it.  I need a bath.”  She ran up the stairs to her room.

###

Jessica’s phone rang shortly after sundown.  Emily was still not back to the room and she thought it might be her, but it was Amina.

“Get out,” Amina yelled.  “The zombies are coming here.”

“To the dorm?  Is that it?”

“That is what I was feeling.”

Jessica hung up and raced to bang on Maria’s door.  Maria opened it and hushed her.  Mindy was taking a nap.

“Amina,” Jessica held up her phone.  “Zombies, coming here.”

a dorm room 3“What?”  Maria shouted.

“Huh?”  Mindy poked her head up from the bed.  Jessica and Maria went to drag her from the bed, but there was a noise in the hall and they knew Mindy would never wake in time. They flew to the door even as a zombie appeared in the opening.  Maria stuck her foot out and flat-footed the zombie in the chest.  She got scratched, but the zombie was knocked to its back and Jessica got the door closed and locked.

“What’s happening?”  Mindy asked as she came awake and saw Jessica and Maria with their backs to the door.  There was a loud Bang!  The door jiggled along with Jessica and Maria, but it held.

“Zombies,” Jessica said as Maria grabbed her chair and shoved it under the door handle.  Mindy went straight for the window.  They were in the new dorm where the windows were long and skinny and generally not made for escape.

“If we can get the window off here, I think I can get out and get help,” Mindy suggested.  She was the only one who might have been small enough.

“The advantages of being little,” Jessica said as she and the door jiggled again to another Bang!

“ I got 9-1-1,” Maria said.  She had one hand leaning heavily on the door above the chair, but her phone was in her other hand.  Jessica still had her phone in hand, but she had not thought of using it.

“Amina is out there.  She will get help,” Jessica said as Mindy screamed.  A zombie came up to the window.  There was a sudden brilliant flash of light, and a heartbeat later, there came a series of a zombies 2explosions.  The door crashed into the room and landed on Jessica.  Maria flew back and hit her head on the cement-block wall.  Mindy covered her face, but caught plenty of glass from the shattered window.  No one said the light and explosions should have come at the same time.

Less than a minute later, Amina showed up with Bernie the campus cop.  Another minute later, Emily arrived.  She was on her way home when she heard the explosions.

Maria was out cold.  Jessica had a broken arm.  Mindy was kneeling, shivering and crying from the pain of a thousand cuts.

The Elect 18, Misdirection: part 1 of 4

Emily got on the plane and sat by the window.  She ignored everyone and everything apart from the stress she was feeling.  The clouds offered no distraction and no comfort as she considered all that had happened to her since coming to school.  She thought of the geeks in the frat house, the football players in the sorority house, and the destruction of her ROTC freshman class.  She considered Hilde himself, the end result of his own experiments.  The suck face murders, as they were called.

Emily tried to think about Pierce, but her mind turned to zombies instead, and the Swensons, ac emily 1both mother and daughter.  Emily had learned that Abby’s father and brother were killed in an unexplained accident a few years earlier.  If two plus two ever made four, it seemed obvious to one who believed in witchcraft that Abby killed her father and brother in order to gain her mother’s full time attention.  No wonder Abby reacted with such anger and hatred when Professor Swenson died.  With a little subtlety, Abby might still be around enslaving people to her heart’s content, but Flabby wasn’t that smart.  Then again, Professor Swenson was, and Emily imagined the loss of her husband and son was probably what got her working on the whole idea of bringing the dead back to life.  The cut up murders, as they were called.

Emily coughed, and the middle aged man who had taken the center seat to be next to the pretty young girl decided to move to the empty aisle seat.

Again, Emily tried to think about Pierce, but that just brought to mind the old people murders.  She decided Lisa was probably right.  Granted, they had their hands full looking for the zombie lab, but there was probably a third group out there somewhere.  No telling what they had in mind since so ac emily 5afar they had not tipped their hand.

Emily sneezed, felt a chill and had a forehead full of sweat by the time they landed.  She pulled her coat tight and walked to baggage claim, thinking about Latasha and the succubus.  She thought of the vampires over Christmas.  She remembered what Lisa said early on, that if it was some kind of monster she would have been informed.  Emily wondered about this much larger and much stranger universe she had stumbled into, and where it might lead.  When she grabbed her bags, she did not see the ghostly, mist-like thing that exited her back.  Like a puff of smoke, it wafted down to her bag and sucked itself inside among her things.

************************

Thus far, Emily, her roommate and friends have helped Detective Lisa shut down the super soldier competition being held by the biology department at New Jersey State University where Emily is a freshman.  They can’t pin it on the Pentagon.  And they can’t seem to stop the incoming zombies, wired to explode when they reach their destination–at least not without finding the zombie lab.  And poor Latasha, the third elect in town, is only a freshman in the local high school where the madness from the university has overflowed.

Chapter 18 (or episode 18 if you have more of a television mind) is being posted this week: today, Tues., Wed., and Thurs.  If you want to visit the blog, you can click on the archives button and start in November 2015, or you can just read chapter 18 and get the general idea of what is going on.  I do urge you, though, to read the whole chapter, like watching the whole television episode…

It is free to read, after all.  Do enjoy and Happy Reading

a a happy reading 2

The Elect 17, part 3 of 4: Restaurant du Jour

Jessica and Larry went inside first.  Jessica looked around to be sure plenty of eyes turned toward her.  Of course, after Pierce and Emily came in and he held Emily’s chair for her, Jessica frowned at Larry.  Larry ignored the look and spoke softly.

“This place isn’t cheap.”

“I’m going to the restroom,” Jessica said and stood.  “Coming?”  She was not asking.ac jessica 7

Emily stood, shrugged at Pierce and followed.  “What’s up?”  Jessica rolled her eyes but said nothing until they were safely behind the closed door and in front of the mirror.

“Why did I ever let you talk me into this double date?”  Jessica pouted.

“It was your idea.”

“Well, it was a dumb idea.”

“I don’t know.  Larry seems nice.”  He was the semester record having been with Jessica almost two weeks.

Jessica started to say something, but changed her mind and pulled out her lip-gloss.  Then she spoke.  “Do you think so?”

“And he seems bright, too.”  Emily encouraged her.  After all, Jessica said she broke up with Tom because he was not very bright.

“Double major.  Physics and math.”  Jessica smiled.  She had hooked a genuine geek.  “He could use some help with his manners, though.”

ac emily 9Emily looked toward the door in lieu of looking at the table.  “I don’t know.  You can’t judge by Pierce.”

“Yeah, I know.  A graduate student when I’m stuck with Joe College.  What is he, twenty-three, twenty-four?”

“No.  I mean he seems oddly out of place sometimes, like he is older than he appears.  Like the old fashioned way he always holds the door and pulls out my chair and stuff like that.  And sometimes he seems younger.  I don’t know, like old television shows and common knowledge things from when we grew up.  He doesn’t remember them at all.”

“Maybe his parents didn’t let him watch television as a child,” Jessica suggested.

Emily looked again at her friend.  “Twenty-four, I think.”

“When is his birthday?”

Emily paused to consider and realized she had no answer.  “We never talked about birthdays.”

“Larry’s is September third.  He is a junior, twenty-one years old.  What do you talk about, anyway?”

Emily shrugged.

“Zombies and stuff I bet.”

This time Emily frowned.  “It isn’t like that.”a zombie explode

Jessica smiled in response.  “Come on.  We better get back before I start getting jealous again.”

They stepped out the door, took two steps and Emily grabbed Jessica to make her stop walking.  There was a man standing right behind their table.  He was looking up at the ceiling and raising his hands.

“Pierce!  Down!”  Emily shouted and saw Pierce grab Larry and drag him under the table.  Even as Emily dragged Jessica to the ground, the standing man exploded.  Flesh and guts and deadly bone fragments shot in every direction.  Emily got some green glop on her dress.  Jessica had something pink and mushy fall in her lap.  She identified it.

“Ew! I hate liver.”

Emily was already up.  There were people bleeding all over the room.  A couple of them were probably dead, but Emily could not worry about that yet.  She arrived at the table when Pierce finished setting it upright again.  Somehow, he got himself and Larry under and then tilted the table to act as a barrier.  All their plates, utensils and the lovely flowers went to the floor, but the tablecloth remained.  Emily ducked under.

“Are you all right?”  Pierce and Emily grabbed each other and spoke at the same time.

a confused-man1“What the hell was that?”  Larry was getting his bearings.  He saw Emily and Pierce were embracing and kissing, so he thought to find Jessica.  Jessica had her phone out.

“Maria, call Detective Lisa and Julie Tam.  The dead have risen.  They are moving again.”

“What the hell was that?”  Larry repeated himself.

Jessica temporarily covered her phone.  “Zombie,” she said.

The Elect 17, part 2 of 4: Amazon Mindy

“Maynard in a moron!”  Emily griped about her professor and slammed her Earth Science book shut.  She slouched down in her lounge chair and ran her hand through her hair.  It was coming along nicely, but still in that awkward short but not too short stage.  “I swear she just hates people, all people.  I don’t take it personally.”  Maria and Amina looked up from their studies, but only briefly.

Jessica returned from the vending machine with a bag of peanuts that she was trying to open.  “Ugh.  Why do you think I am majoring in business?  Ugh.”ac jessica 2

Emily put out her hand.  Jessica handed her the bag and Emily opened it easily, except one peanut shot across the room.

“Hey!”  Jessica protested.  “I am perfectly capable of spilling them myself.”  Maria had her hand out.  Jessica gave her a few.  Amina lifted her hand and got a few as well.  Emily just looked at her but Jessica shook her head and pointed.  “Yours is over there.”

“I don’t need them,” Emily said with a pat on her stomach.

Amina tapped Emily’s arm and smiled.  “I have seen you eat.  You should be very fat.”

“High metabolism,” Maria said without looking up from her book.

“No, it’s those workouts with Heinrich and the sophomore ROTC class,” Emily said.  She put her book back into her backpack, which was sitting on the empty chair between her and Jessica.  Maria ac maria 4and Amina were on the couch.

“So no word from Detective Lisa?”  Maria looked up then and wanted to talk.

Emily shook her head.  “They have people searching as far away as the Philadelphia shipyards, but no sign of any lab.”

“Oh, thanks for reminding me about the zombies.”  Jessica threw her pencil down and stared at Emily.  It did not take much to turn her from her studies.  “I just hope this semester I don’t have another teacher killed.”

“You passed art history,” Maria pointed out.

“Yeah, but I spent a whole semester buttering up Missus Farmer for an A.  That was all wasted.”

Amina and Emily just looked at each other and shook their respective heads before Amina spoke.ac amina 6  “Funny.  The magic involved in making them was so very strong even if it only took a small spark to make it work.  But you would think such a thing would be easy to find.”

“Easy for you, maybe,” Emily said, and Amina looked away.

“I imagine it is hidden on many levels,” Maria suggested.

“Please, magic?”  Jessica started up again.  “I mean, I know.  I’m not stupid, but I’m still trying to get used to the idea of zombies.”  None of the people on campus had any memory of their time as Abby worshipers.

“More like Frankenstein type monsters,” Emily used the term her sisters used.

“That is actually a very good description.”  Maria had not been there when Emily and her sisters met and described them.  Maria liked the description, but she did not have time to comment further.  She fell silent as someone came in the door.  It was Mindy from Daughters of the Amazon ac mindy 6fame.  Mindy came up, acknowledged them all by name, and turned to Maria.

“Do you mind?  I heard you say you were having some trouble with Crocker’s class.”  Mindy had her book and Amina scooted over so Mindy could sit between her and Maria.

“Actually, I would not mind some help,” Maria said.  “Calc,” she said to the others.  “Math,” she added for Jessica who pretended offence.  They no sooner got settled when the door opened again.  It was Connie and she had a girl on her heels that at first glance looked more like a football player than a female.

“Mindy.”  Connie got ready to scold her roommate for some offence, but Emily interrupted.

“Homework.  Math.  Priority.”  Connie just looked at Emily for a second before she introduced the group to her friend, Lilly.

“So you’re Emily,” Lilly said through a crooked grin that creased her face.  Connie stepped back a half step to stand behind the couch.  She was beaming.  “I hear you think you’re pretty tough.”

“Me?”  Emily widened her eyes.  “No, I like people, unlike certain Earth Science professors.”

ac lilly 1

“Well, I think you should move over and give me your seat.”  Lilly threatened without actually saying it out loud.

“No problem.”  Emily got up, moved her backpack and took the empty seat.  She pointed to her former seat as if inviting Lilly to sit.  The girl sat, but Amina could not contain herself.  She giggled.  She tried to cover up with both of her hands.  Lilly turned on her like a shark.

“What are you laughing at, shithead?”

Emily had to move fast.  She caught Lilly’s fist before that fist touched Amina’s face.  She also squeezed a little which had to hurt poor Lilly.  She grabbed Lilly with her other hand on the girl’s shoulder and tossed the girl five feet down the hall.  Lilly landed on her back and continued to slide another five feet before she stopped.ac emily 7

“Ow!”  They heard Lilly say, but when Lilly looked up, Connie was already racing for the door.  Lilly decided to go out the door at the other end of the hall, and Emily reclaimed her seat, after she picked it up.

“Sorry.”  Emily spoke to the group, but she said it loud enough with the hope that Lilly might hear.  They all looked at Mindy, but she seemed unfazed by it all, until they noticed a tear in Mindy’s eye.  Amina was the first to speak.

“We are getting a suite next year in Brown.  You could be my roommate.”

Mindy let her tears out and threw her arms around Amina.  “Oh, thank you, thank you.”  Then she turned on Maria.  “Thank you.”  Jessica got up with “what the heck,” and gave the girl a hug as well.   Emily counted.

“But that only makes five.  The housing office will assign a stranger.”

Maria raised her hand.  “Melissa.”

“Oh, right.”

ac mindy 5So, we are getting a suite?”  Jessica looked nonchalant and sounded unruffled by the news.

“The Sybil has spoken,” Maria said.  “Welcome to the club,” she added for Mindy.

Mindy smiled and picked up her math paper.  She looked around, then looked seriously at her math while her mouth spoke.  “So were we talking about the zombies or the witch?”