keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 96: Kondor 32
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 95: Slade 31
"I want a wedge formation keyed on me at the point," Kondor ordered. "Our ball carriers are in the middle, and we're going to force our way through as quickly as we can. Get into position as we move."
He was already through the gate, and out of the corner of his left eye he could see someone a half step behind. He realized that with the eye patch he was blind on the right, but now was not a good time to remove it or retune the cybereye. He would just have to be more alert, more careful.
A troop of the zombies were rushing forward to intercept them. This didn't worry Kondor; zombies were fast, but they weren't smart or tough. The rows of skeletons forming to the left were of greater concern, as they clearly intended to use arrows against them; the zombies were only a delaying tactic. Kondor shifted toward the skeletons. This put the zombies on his blind side, but it also closed the gap on the ranged weapons. Already about five hundred yards out from the gate, he was within two hundred yards of the enemy archers. Somehow he didn't think the skeletons were much use in hand-to-hand combat--he'd never seen them even carry swords. If he could reach them quickly, his men would have the advantage.
He looked over at the zombies; they had turned to intercept. There would be a fight. Before they arrived, he should do something about the skeletons. But what? He had already seen arrows pass harmlessly through, or sometimes crack ribs and deflect out. Bullets wouldn't be any better. But he had to do something.
He had an idea, and he still had a minute before the zombies would reach them. He stopped, and aimed the M-16 at one of the skeletons. He fired once, then again, then a third time; the three bullets all connected, and the third shattered the pelvic bone. The creature's legs gave way beneath it, and it crumbled to the ground.
"Right flank," he shouted, "prepare to engage zombies. Left flank, launch missiles against skeletons. Aim for the hips!" And with three more shots, he destroyed another skeleton, even as a barrage of crossbow bolts struck the others, visibly injuring several and destroying a couple more. But the zombies had arrived, and Kondor was on both flanks. He turned the rifle point blank against these primitively armed grunts, and started firing, still using single shots to conserve bullets. It usually took only two shots to stop one of these, provided they were good solid hits; and at this range, he rarely missed. And the troops with him were indeed superb fighters; they destroyed the zombies quickly, although outnumbered two to one, and took only minor injuries themselves.
Meanwhile, the few skeletons who were unhurt after a second barrage of crossbow bolts retreated when Kondor turned his M-16 back toward them. The company advanced. They were half way to their objective.
Kondor mused at the appearance of the creatures. Back in the cemetery they were horrors; with the setting and the props, crawling out of the graves, they had terrified him. Here they were just alien creatures, some kind of strange out-of-place animal. He had no fear of them here.
But they seemed determined to stop him. The tougher ghouls were forming ahead. Kondor wasn't too worried; he quickened his pace to a fast walk, holding the tight wedge formation. As the two lines moved toward each other, he started firing the M-16 into the center, still in single shot mode, gradually thinning their line and clearing a path. By the time the lines collided, there was little strength left in the middle, and Kondor's troops tore through with swords. The so-called ghouls fought like madmen. Kondor wondered if it was a characteristic of their species, some kind of training, or drugs. None fled when injured, nor even seemed to notice pain, stopping only when they collapsed. But to Kondor, this was still a job. He battled calmly and intelligently, and pressed through the foul-smelling beasts steadily. His glances behind him told him he had lost a few men, but he did not have time to count casualties. As long as their formation held, they would fight. In the midst of this he ran out of bullets; he had the other clip, but for the moment he switched to the pistol. At point blank range, he could effectively kill them just as quickly with it. His men continued to cut a path through the lines, and advanced to the source of the light, the heart of the enemy camp.
And there they faced the spectres.
Kondor replaced the clip in the pistol, and started firing at one. It was a glowing translucent human form with bits of bone and dust floating within it. The bullets passed harmlessly through.
He had brought the Vorgo, the one thing the enemy wanted which he didn't want them to have, into the midst of their camp, and he had no way to protect it.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #57: Multiverse Variety. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: