The Turned – Chapter 11

Svetlana pushed her mount faster than usual. This was a good horse, fast and sure-footed.  She didn’t push the horse into a run- she had far too great a distance to go, and had already had the horse running for a good share of the morning.  She tried hard to focus her mind on where she was going, and what she needed to do, but her doubts continued to surface, no matter how hard she pressed them back down.

Red Hill seemed like as good a place as any to start.  She had left the compound dangerously early – even though the sun had been peeking over the trees, there had been plenty of shadows for the Turned to hide in.  That danger had passed, and she didn’t need to keep quite so close an eye on the forest to her left side.  Instead, she looked ahead as the road slowly curved around one edge of the woods.

Ahead of her, by about 300 meters, she guessed, four riders came into view around the gentle curve.  Svetlana was moving faster than they were, but they held a decent pace of their own.  Within a few minutes, they came close enough for Svetlana to make out some details.

Two men, two women, riding almost in couples.  Not dressed in any exceptional manner, except for the skirts on the woman in the latter pair.  They all looked well-rested and well fed, and were fairly cheerful at a distance.  They became more cautious as she approached, but there were four, and only one of her, so she knew she posed no obvious threat.  Her own clothes suddenly struck her as inappropriate- she wore a brown cloak, but underneath she still had on the black pants and shirt she’d worn to give her report to the Order.  It wasn’t a big deal to wear black – after all, it was the easiest color of dye to make, which made it the most common- but if it was recognized as being a uniform, she might be in trouble.

As she came close, she nodded politely.  Then she began looking for small things to remember.  The first couple seemed fairly average.  There was something about the second pair that bothered her.  She couldn’t put her finger on it until she was just passing them.

The man was actually a teen-age boy, 16 or 17, although his face held the look of someone who has lived many years longer.  The woman wore red glasses over her eyes, and Svetlana couldn’t think of why until the woman turned her head to look at the road ahead, then turn to look back at Svetlana.  When she did, she tilted her head slightly down, and looked just over the top edge of her glasses-

Her eyes are infected!

They stared at each other for a long moment as they passed.  She realized a moment later that the young man next to her was just as infected, but then she recognized him.  He’d been in the village where the infected explorer was locked up.  In fact-

No.  Too much of a coincidence.

She was sure of it, she told herself as she turned away.  Those two were Immune, and they had been in that village when she’d heard the dying man raving about his discovery.  That had been where all this madness had started, and those two had been there.

And worse, she was sure they’d recognized her.

*****

Katrick entered the village gate, dismounted from his horse, and led it over to where Lincoln’s carriage stood.  It was still fairly early in the morning, and it appeared that most of the troupe was taking their morning meal in the dining room of the inn.  He tapped Lincoln on the shoulder, then pulled over a chair from another table, seating himself between Jacob and Kevin Jennings.

“Good to see you all again,” he said.  “How’s your travelling been?”

“Very well, Katrick, and good to see you, too.” Lincoln replied, taking a bite of his food.  “Here looking for Marlena again?”

“Possibly.  If she’s going to go looking for this treasure today, then yes.  Xeren is out here somewhere, looking for the same thing, and I felt Marlena could use the warning.”

Lincoln looked up at him.  “Well, they’ve already left to go find it, and from what their friends said, its not far away.  They’re probably already there by now.”

“Hrm,” Katrick breathed, “I doubt I could find them now, not without directions.”  He shook his head.  “I just don’t know what Xeren would do if they met.”

“They don’t hate each other, do they?” Lincoln asked.  “Seems to me they just disappoint each other.”

Katrick nodded.  “But the situation- Xeren’s pretty driven about this, and I don’t know how far she’s willing to go.”

At that point, they all heard hoofbeats from many riders approaching.  Katrick rose, and approached the door to look outside.  Lincoln and Jacob were beside him a moment later.

The main gate of the village of Red Hill opened up onto the road that passes by the village.  Through the metal wire fence, they could see a large group of riders approaching.  They didn’t stop at the gate, or even slow down, but galloped right past.  Even at that speed, Katrick could make out armor, weapons, and on some of them, the tunics that identified them as coming from Carter’s Hill.

He grimaced.  “Well, if they didn’t need a warning before, they certainly do now.”

*****

Jameson had seen the other rider coming toward them, just as they became visible around the curve.  She was riding at a faster pace than his group was, and it wasn’t long before he could get a good look at her.  She had her hood up, but it didn’t hide her face.  Her skin was light, paler than most people he had met, and her hair was a light blond that almost looked white.  Her eyes were a ghostly blue.  For the most part, her gaze locked on the road ahead, but for a moment, it passed across his own, and then moved on toward Marlena.  Then they locked onto the road ahead.  Jameson saw Marlena’s head turn to look at the other rider, and then do a slow sort of double-take.  The rider passed by them, and continued down the road.

Marlena didn’t turn her head to look behind them.  Jameson took his cue from her, and kept his face as neutral as he could.  He knew he’d seen that woman before, where they’d found Sarah’s father.  He didn’t know why Marlena had given him the look she had, but its meaning had been clear; Pretend you don’t recognize her.

The road curved, skirting the edge of the forest, and it wasn’t long before the hoofbeats of the woman’s horse faded away.  Jameson turned to look behind them, but knew beforehand that he wouldn’t see her.  Marlena spurred her horse forward, coming between Marion and Sarah.

“How much farther do we go on this road?”

“Not very much,” Sarah said.  She pointed off to the right.  Dark shapes were visible in the distance, rising above the treetops.  “Those buildings over there- that ruined city- that’s the landmark my father wrote about.  He said you could see them from the path that led off the road.”

Marlena nodded, then slowed her pace.  When she was beside Jameson again, she turned to look at him.

“She’s following us now, isn’t she?” Jameson said.  Marlena only nodded.  “I can feel her, back there, just around the curve.  I may have given us away when I turned back to look for her.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Marlena said.  “It’s not like we have much of a chance of losing her out here.”

“I remember seeing her before- at the village where we found Sarah’s father.”

“I’ve seen her before, too,” Marlena said.  “A couple times, actually.  Three other times before the one you remember, in three different villages.  And each time, those villages ended up being over-run by the Turned not too long afterward.”

Jameson’s face screwed up with confusion.  “What do you mean?”

“One of those villages was yours,” she continued.  “How did the Turned get into your village?”

“The Turned didn’t do anything different that night, they got in because…”  Click. His eyes widened.

“Exactly.”  Marlena sighed.  “She’s alone for now, but I think she’ll have some friends waiting for us at some point.”

“There it is,” Marion said over his shoulder.  He was pointing at a forgotten-looking dirt track that plunged straight into the forest.  The group stopped, and peered into the forest for a moment.  “I’m sure there’s places in there dark enough for the Turned to move around.”

Marlena nodded.  “We’ll find them for you,” she said, giving her horse a gentle kick and guiding him onto the track.  There was just enough room on the track for a horse, but the brush pushed in close on both sides.  Sarah and Marion followed her, and Jameson went in last.

The bushes had grown in thick at the forest’s edge, but thinned out once they’d gotten fully under the canopy of the oak and maple trees.  The trunks were close together, sometimes within 2 or 3 meters of each other, and most had no branches lower than 5 meters off the ground.  The ground was covered with grass and moss and old leaves, and the trail they followed cut almost a straight line.  It dodged around a tree here or there, but for the most part was easy to follow.  The land rose and fell, and they couldn’t see clearly for more than 50 meters ahead of them.  After a long while, the trail turned sharply left, and wound around the base of a decent-sized hill.  Marion was looking around, nervously.  Sarah’s eyes locked on the trail in front of them in anticipation.  Jameson could feel the presence of the Turned not far away, but not near enough to come for them.  Their new friends were fairly safe here, for the time being.  But he could also feel the other rider, not far behind them.  Jameson smirked to himself, knowing how nervous most people were to enter a forest, even during the day.  He and Marlena could be sure that their path was safe for Sarah and Marion to walk, but the woman watching them had no assurances.

Before long, they could see the square shape of a building through the trees- grey, weather-worn and wind-battered, but fairly intact.  It was only 4 meters tall or so, but must have been 20 or 30 meters out from the side of the hill, and was about that wide.  It was built right into the side of the hill, and they’d be able to climb around the side and get onto the building’s roof.  Most of the area had plenty of light, so there was no worry about being ambushed by the Turned – at least not until dark.

The door to the building stood ajar.  It was a large door, big enough for two people to pass each other.  Some sunlight spilled inside, but not enough to see more than the floor right around the door.  It wasn’t wood inside, or metal, or anything else Jameson was used to seeing in a building.  It looked like the same kind of cut, polished grey rock that he’d seen in the ancient city.  Marlena stepped close to the door, but apparently couldn’t see very far.  She opened the door wide, and took a step inside.  Jameson came in a moment later.

It took a moment for him to realize what it was that was inside.  He could feel the presence of the Turned, but they were… below him.  He realized that there must be another level to this place.  But there was something else he could feel, much closer.  Like the Turned that were close were smaller, and lying on the floor.  Sarah’s father had talked about something else that had been in here, but his brain had been dying at the time, and he hadn’t been clear.

The walls were made of what looked like metal panels- similar to ones he’d seen at home- and there were gaps here and there where beams of light would lance into the room.  There was enough ambient light for him to see, once his eyes had adjusted.  The floor was all one piece of stone, it seemed, and was strewn with litter, leaves, small bits of metal, and broken pieces of wood.  Pieces of what looked like destroyed furniture was overturned, torn, and smashed in many parts of the room.  There was movement in many places, on the floor, and he tried to get close enough to see what it was.

Marlena knelt, and lifted something off the floor.  Jameson thought it was a tree branch until it twisted and wiggled in her hands.  He came closer, trying to get a better look.

“Snakes,” she said.  “That’s what killed them.”  Jameson shook his head, amazed.  He could sense them all over now, moving about the rubbish, wanting to go outside to where there were living people, but afraid of the sunlight.

His eyes finally were able to work with the light in the room, and it felt more comfortable than he had been outside.  Daylight still made him uncomfortable, and his eyes were thankful for the darkness.  The building was one, large, open space.  Near the door were what looked like tall, metal cabinets, battered as if something forced them open and rusting from age.  Not far away was what looked like a group of 10 or so sleeping cots, the fabric almost completely gone, but the frames still intact.  These were metal, also, and painted the same grey as the lockers and the outside of the building.

“Did they used to make everything out of steel?” Jameson asked.

Marlena picked her way between the rubble.  “Lots of things, yeah.  I guess it was easy to make, and easy for them to work with.”

Jameson took a different path than she did, looking over an area across the room from the entrance.  As he neared the back corner of the building, he saw what looked like a series of stairs leading downward.  He looked down into the darkness, but decided that without a torch or something to light the way, he would stay up where he was.  He spotted some rotting clothing, or what looked like it, in a small pile on the floor.  Then he saw what looked like a bench, but made of fabric, and across it lay a vest not unlike the one he’d seen Sarah’s father wearing.  He called Marlena over to look.  She picked it up, and nodded, then set it back down.  As she did, Jameson noticed what looked like a wooden box or crate nearby, it’s cover set on the ground beside it.  He carefully picked his way across it, accidentally stepping on one of the snakes on his way.  It reared up at him, hissing, but the sound it made was so un-natural that Jameson almost lost his footing and fell.

“Watch your step,” Marlena teased him, not looking up.  She had already turned to look at the stairs.  Jameson knelt by the side of the crate, and pulled out one of the books he found inside.

He couldn’t recognize the words he saw on their covers- they were long, and complex.  The books were bound with a material he couldn’t recognize- smooth and glossy, a little weather-worn but in good shape.  After seeing the books in the ancient city, and how badly the weather had treated them, Jameson was sure these books had been well-protected.  Sarah’s father and his team must have opened the crate when they were here, but otherwise the books had been covered and protected by the crate for many winters.

He recognized the word “building” on one of the books, and again called Marlena.  She came over, more quickly this time, and knelt next to him.

“This is it,” she said, picking up another book and flipping through its pages quickly.  “Well, not this book – this one looks like it’s just pictures of the things they used to be able to make.”  The book she held was the largest in the crate, colored green and had the word “sweet” on it, which was confusing to Jameson.  She put the book down, and picked up another one.  Jameson found what looked like a group of papers, all attached along one side.  He scanned the words at the top of the first page, and didn’t recognize all of them.  He had to sound out the word “cement”, and asked Marlena what it was.

She looked it over for a moment, then said, “I think that’s what we’re looking for.  Cement is the stuff they made this floor out of,” she tapped her finger on the floor.  “They could make it into just about any shape they wanted to- they could pour it like molten metal, but once it hardened, it was like stone.”  She flipped through the pages some more, nodding occasionally.  Her eyebrows rose at a couple places.  “Yeah, this talks about how to make it, but I don’t get it all.  Kevin and David will be able to read it better than I can.”  She set the paper back into the crate, and picked up another book.  Jameson did the same.

*****

Sarah and Marion had climbed up the side of the hill, and sat on top of the building’s roof.  Warned that they were being followed, they kept alert, but saw nothing.  They whispered back and forth about the things that her father might have found inside.  Sarah felt a relief, somehow, that they’d found the place, and just hoped that they’d found it soon enough.  It angered her to think of what the Cartersons would do if they’d found his secret, and kept it to themselves.  Her father had worked so hard to help people.

They heard people coming down the trail long before they saw them.  They crouched down low behind the peak of the roof, peeking over until they saw who was coming.  At first, she thought it would be the team from Carter’s Hill, but these people were on foot, and there were only 7 of them.  As they got closer, Sarah could see that their eyes were dark- all but the woman who seemed to be leading them.  She was petite, and very pretty, but had a dangerous look on her face.  The woman scanned the area, and then seemed to look right at her and Marion.  Her gaze then fell to the door, and without a word, she and her companions entered the building below them.

*****

“Well, Marlena, I was wondering if it was you we’d meet here,” Xeren said, when her eyes had adjusted.  She slowly made her way across the building to where the pair were crouched.  “You know, we would never have found this place without your help.  We spent all day yesterday looking.”

“Hrm,” Marlena said, standing.  “I knew we were being followed, but I was sure it was one of the Believers.”

“Oh, her.  She’s still out there, not far away.  It was her than led us here, actually- she followed you, and we followed her.  She’s probably planning to watch the entrance until you come out, and follow you away from here.”  Xeren came closer.  Her eyes were calm, and softened at seeing her old friend.  “This isn’t a good spot for anyone to ambush you- the Turned could leap out at them from just about anywhere.”  She paused for a moment.  “It’s good to see you again.”

Marlena nodded.  “It’s been a long time.  This is Jameson- Lincoln and I found him in Dry River.”  She looked at Jameson.  “This is Xeren, an old acquaintance of mine.”

Xeren nodded at him, and he stood.  The signals he was getting from Marlena were mixed, confused.  She was tense about something, but outwardly he got the feeling they were friends.  They had been, once, anyway.  But why was Marlena so tense?

“You still travel with Lincoln?  Not a very exciting life, not for someone like us,” Xeren stepped toward them again.  Jameson could see the others, scattering across the room to look around.  He also noticed that they had arranged themselves in a way that left no path for him and Marlena to get to the door.  “And it’s not like you have to worry about traveling the way they do.”

“I’ve had plenty of excitement,” Marlena said.  “The peace has been nice.”

Xeren shook her head.  “There isn’t going to be much more of it, not for people like us.  If you’re here, then you know what the soldiers from Carter’s Hill are going to be doing soon.  From what I’ve heard, they’ve already started marching out.”

“There’s not much I can do about that,” Marlena replied.

“But there is, and you know it,” Xeren chided her.  “Marlena, we miss you, and in times like this, we need you.  I know that last battle was hard on you, but your people need you.”

“You and I had very different reactions to that fight, Xeren.”  Marlena’s voice had taken on a dark edge.  Jameson looked over at her, hoping for a signal of some sort, but got none.  He turned his attention back to Xeren, whose eyes locked on his.

“It was a long time ago, Jameson.  When the people who control Carter’s Hill first learned of our friend Symon, and our group up near Tarense, they immediately saw him as a threat, and sent a group of soldiers up to arrest him.  I’m not sure if they meant to bring him back alive or not, but they never made it that far.  Symon has many friends, and we met those soldiers as they stayed over at a village about half-way between the two cities.  The fight was… well, it was terrible.  The village defenders got involved, thinking we were just like the rest of the Turned, even if we could climb their fence in a way the Turned never could.  Marlena was there.  Lots of us were hurt and killed, burned sometimes, and in the end, the only way we could get out alive was to breach the fences and let the Turned distract the fighters.”

Marlena growled at her now.  “It was not the only way, it was just the most convenient way you saw.  And the whole village died because of your decision.”

“And all of us that had gone there would have died there if I hadn’t,” Xeren said, exasperated.  “Those people had dealt with breaches in their fence dozens of times, and that time they had additional help from the team from Carter’s Hill.  They should have been able to stop the Turned easily.”  She paused for a moment.  “We’ve had this talk before, Marlena.  Why is it that you are the only person who carries a grudge from that night?”

“It’s not a grudge, Xeren.  It’s the understanding that you have a very different opinion of un-infected people, and think of them as less than human.”

Xeren shook her head, a thin smile on her lips.  “Oh, no, I think of them as completely human… I just think of our kind as something more.  Something superior.  A gifted people who were meant to survive in these times, where they are not.”  Xeren sighed.  “Look, we can discuss this all day, but you won’t ever change my mind, and while I wish I could change yours, I doubt it will happen here.  And since I noticed that you rode horses to get here, I’ll make this quick, and give you plenty of time to get your horses to safety before sunset.  You’ve found what it is we’re all looking for.  We’re going to take it back with us, and make it disappear, and that way no one, not the Cartersons, not normal people, no one will have it as an advantage.  It won’t do any good for us, people like you and me.  It’ll only help those who would exterminate us.”

Marlena didn’t respond.  Jameson finally understood the situation, and took a step back.

Xeren smiled at him, patiently.  “We’re not going to hurt you two, don’t worry.  You’re a brother to us.  But we are going to take that with us.”  She pointed at the crate.

Jameson knelt next to the crate.  The large bench was between him and Xeren, and he hoped she wouldn’t see him pull the loose papers out, and slip them under his shirt.  Next he picked up the green, heavy book, and handed it to Marlena.  She could defend herself well enough, he thought, that the safest place for what they’d found was in her hand.  She apparently agreed.

“What makes you think we’ll just give this to you?” she asked.

Xeren cocked one eyebrow.  “Look, Marlena, we’re not the only ones looking for this place.  There’s another team coming here from Carter’s Hill, and I’m sure it won’t be too hard for them to find you.  They’ve sent soldiers to all the villages around their city, and all of them will be looking for anyone who looks Immune.  You could travel across country, but either you walk- and it’s a long way back to Tarense- or you stop in villages to keep your horses alive.  Even travelling with Lincoln won’t get you past them.  Give it to us, and at least you’ll know that Carter’s Hill won’t use this to their advantage.  Think about it,” she said, sounding as if she was losing patience.  “If they can continue to expand their reach, soon there won’t be any place we can live without fear of being arrested and burned.  We’ll take it with us, and make it disappear.  The villages around us have been able to survive without this, they’ll continue to survive.  The most important thing is to make sure that it doesn’t get used against us.”

Marlena’s jaw tightened.  She stepped forward, and handed over the book.  “This is the one they’re looking for.  The rest of the books are pictures, nothing we can make use of nowadays.”

Xeren hefted the book, then turned her attention to the movement on the floor.  “This is interesting… snakes carrying the infection.”  She knelt to look at one, and it stared back at her, then slithered off toward the door.  Jameson noticed that several of the snakes seemed to move that direction.  “I noticed there were two un-infected friends of yours here… where are they, that the snakes haven’t bitten them?”

She looked back at her friends, and all of them looked up at the ceiling of the building.  Then they heard the noise from outside, down the road, building up as whatever it was came closer.  Xeren turned to the door, then made her way back to it.

*****

Sarah and Marion were sure they’d been spotted, but didn’t speak about it, even after the group had gone into the building under them.  They could hear them speaking, but couldn’t make out the words.  Before long, they heard more horses coming toward them, down the pathway on the other side of the hill.  When they came into view, Sarah’s blood chilled.  Marren was at the lead of the line, with Casper just behind him.  The other riders arranged around the entrance, and began to dismount.  Some drew swords, others readied flame weapons.  They spotted the four horses instantly.  Sarah shook her head, wishing they’d moved the animals around to the back of the building.

A moment later, the group that had followed them here emerged from the door.  The woman that had led them now wore a bag over one shoulder, and something bulky was inside.  Casper shouted at them to stop moving.  A moment later, he’d nodded to two of his soldiers, who advanced and ignited their flame weapons.

The seven Immune were trapped, and they knew it.  Sarah wanted to shout something to Casper to stop him, knowing that if these people burned, whatever they had in that bag would burn with them.  But she knew they’d kill her, too.  They’d already tried.

The flame weapons spat, bathing the whole group in fire.  They’d been designed to work against large groups of the Turned, and covered a wide area.  Only the leader escaped the first gout of fire, and she turned back toward the door into the building.  The two on the roof couldn’t see her now, from where they crouched.  Sarah heard the door swing open, then slam shut.  The soldiers below continued to pour fire on the group still outside.  She closed her eyes, cursing them under her breath.  Then she opened her eyes again, and watched as the entire group of soldiers approached the door.  She heard it being kicked open, and saw them disappear inside.

*****

Jameson and Marlena pulled Xeren across the floor and toward the stairs.  She made no sound as the door was broken inward.  All argument between the two women was put aside.  They had descended the stairs a few steps, and now peered up over the rubble at the team of soldiers who were spreading out to search the inside of the building.  There were five with flame weapons, but they were aiming them high, up where the head of one of the Turned would be.  Jameson heard Marlena snicker, softly.  He, too, knew what was about to happen.

Jameson thought back to his lessons about the construction of the joints on a suit of armor.  Many parts were difficult to protect, because they required such a range of motion.  The feet, surprisingly, are very well protected; the greaves that protect the shins overlap the sabatons, which protect the feet.  And while the sabatons are essentially a series of joints that ends up looking like an insect’s shell, when made properly they won’t let anything thicker than a fingernail through.

The back of the knees, on the other hand, was a tough area to protect.  Jameson had heard of suits of armor which had the back of the knees and insides of elbows closed, with folding strips of steel that opened and closed as the arm moved, but whoever knew the secret behind it hadn’t shared it.  On most suits, the plate that formed the central piece of the knee-joint often had a large “wing” on the outer side, which curved around to help protect the open back of the joint.  Sometimes they would interfere with riding a horse, but most often the fighters were on foot, so this wasn’t an issue.  The purpose of the joint’s design had been to keep the Turned from getting their teeth close enough to the un-protected knee.  They usually did this well, but for something smaller, like a snake, it was an easy target.

Looking back, Jameson was thankful that the first four to be struck were all carrying flame weapons.  They could have burned everything in there if they’d fired wild.  As it was, they all shouted out in pain, only moments apart from each other.  Some fell, clutching their legs, but then, almost in unison, they started to cry out, and then start choking.  They dropped the fire wands, which hit the ground with a clang.  Their companions came over to try to help, but two more were struck without even seeing what was attacking them.  The first few were standing back up less than a minute later, slowly pulling their helmets off their heads.  Their skin had already started turning blue, then grey.  One turned to his nearby companion, grabbing at his helmet.  He earned a few strikes from his companion’s sword, but these glanced off the armor instead of cutting flesh.  The infected one pushed him backward, and he tripped, with his Turned friend right on top of him.  The man struggled against his friend, but the weight of two suits of armor held him down.  The remaining flame-soldier had come near, bathing both of them in fire that burned the infection out of one, and the life out of both.

The swords the team had brought were meant for fighting the living, not the dead.  They needed axes to effectively fight the Turned- swords couldn’t sever limbs the same way.  And while they had brought axes with them on the trip, they had been left outside, on their saddles.  After all, it was mid-day.

Casper was near the door, but had two of the bitten soldiers in the way.  He was one of the only two people there who wasn’t wearing their helmets.  The Turned soldiers were pulling their own helmets off, bearing their faces so they could use their teeth.  Casper dodged them, and made for the door, but his companion was pinned down by an armored body.  He shouted, pushing back, but unable to do more than keep the teeth away from his own flesh.  Jameson could see between piles of furniture and rubble, and could see the man’s face as he screamed for help.  But then two snakes reared up and struck him, one on the neck and one in the cheek.  His scream changed it’s tone, and as Jameson watched, a sickly purple color spread across his skin from the two bites.  Soon after was a wave of blue, then one of grey.  Within 30 seconds, his skin had completely changed, and his eyes were bloodshot and dead.  His cry faded into a choke, and then into nothing.

The only one left was the one with the flame weapon, and he was shooting fire down at the ground, desperately.  His dead friends kept their distance from the heat, and soon he had a ring of burning furniture and garbage around him.  He backed toward the door, tripping over something but keeping his feet, and eventually backing out of the building.

*****

Sarah gasped when she saw Casper come out. With all the shouting and screaming coming out, she had a good guess as to what had happened, but seeing his face when he turned back to look at the door to the building chilled her blood.  His eyes were wild, frightened out of his mind and horrified by what he’d seen.  Of all the soldiers that had gone in, only one was able to stumble out, his flame weapon shaking in his hands.  She felt pity for the men inside, even though they’d tried to kill her and Marion.  No one deserved this.

Casper said something quietly to his remaining soldier, who twisted his left arm over to look at his elbow.  His rerebrace had protected most of his upper arm, and the spaulder had covered most of his shoulder, but where they were supposed to overlap, the buckles had failed.  One of his fellow soldiers had pushed the two apart far enough to bite through the cloth arming coat beneath, and blood was trickling down to the deep point of his elbow, dripping from there onto the ground.

He looked back up at Casper, then shook his head, pumping his flame weapon four times to make sure it had full pressure.  Without another word or gesture, he unslung the fuel tank and dropped it on the ground.  He stepped up onto it, then stomped on the fuel hose connection, breaking it off.  Some of the fuel leaked out on the ground.  The soldier turned the flame weapon toward the fuel and squeezed the trigger, igniting the nearly-full fuel tank and causing a magnificent explosion.  The steel container turned into shrapnel, slicing up through his armor, his clothes, and his body, tearing him to pieces while the fire leaped up to consume what was left.

2 Responses to “The Turned – Chapter 11”

  1. Whew what a rush! I wanted Casper to get it this time, but I’m glad now he didn’t. I hope I find out that Sarah gets the satisfaction.

    This rocks!

    • I went back and forth on that one… since Casper did keep the other fighters from murdering Sarah and Marion, I decided to let him live. We don’t hear from him in the second story… perhaps he’ll make an appearance in the third. We’ll see.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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