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Aberrant: Dead Rising - Chapter 12b: The Tower

Dawn OOC

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July 12, 2007

The sun and July heat was merciless, even this far north. All the windows were down, but it was still pretty miserable in the car. Thankfully, sunset was coming soon, in less than an hour.

Ira had been following his gut, driving ever north. At first it was just Ira’s instincts; then they began to see signs for the Devil’s Tower. It was only miles ahead. Nervously, Ira proceeded. The call was pulling him forward; his fear for his ladies held him back. Things had been tense anyway since leaving the idiots in Walmart. Ira had, after his need for solitude had passed, explained what he knew of it to ‘Licia, but Cassie had been less than forthcoming about what she knew. Part of it was her messed-up tongue but Ira knew she was avoiding the subject.

“The Lord of the Dead comes to deal with the King,” Cassie said suddenly.

Ira jumped at her words. “What, babe?”

“The Lord of the Dead? Is that the ‘Death’ guy you’ve talked about?” Felicia had doggedly refused to accept that Cassie meant the personification of Death. Ira didn’t know; Cassie talked about him like he was able to kill easily, at the least.

Cassie shook her head. “Lord of the Dead, the caretaker of the sickened souls,” she said softly, as if that explained it all. “He seeks his King, just as Love seeks hers.” Cassie moaned, putting her head in her hands. “It is all coming to Death. He smiles with his Deathhead, and she cannot see it. He hides his corpses under a sheen of beauty.”

“Right,” Felicia said, looking to Ira. Her gaze was clearly hoping for a translation.

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"Don't look at me, sugar." Ira said, shrugging, "Your guess is as good as mine. Lord and King and Love are all new to me, and I'd rather not have to think about it, honestly. If it isn't about me, no need to worry about it. Cass will probably repeat it when we meet whoever she's spoutin' about."

Ira didn't want to hit the Tower after dark, and with the sun setting, he thought it best to find a place to park for the night and perhaps try out the new tent and sleeping bags. He didn't feel like wrapping himself in insulation, but he knew by experience that it got pretty cold at this elevation at night, even in the summer. And now that he was feeling a little less stressed, it didn't sound so bad to be huddled up with two hot girls, either. Too bad one wasn't feeling particularly well, (ever) otherwise it could be a very nice night.

Just as he was pondering what exactly could happen that very night, he passed a sign begging him to stay at the KOA up ahead.

How convenient.

"It's getting late, lets shack up at that campground, we'll hit the Tower in the morning." Ira said, "Probably hasn't been touched since Z-day, we can raid the office and souvenir shop, maybe even their kitchen fridge was sealed enough to escape pillaging. Sure the animals have taken care of any easier pickins and hopefully the local undead."

Cass didn't respond and Felicia just shrugged and nodded, feeling like she was just along for the ride.


After driving through the gate into the park, the Campground was right there. Ira pulled in and only had to skirt around one RV on the way in. The park was evidently not very busy at the time of its abandonment.

"They have cabins." Ira said, slightly surprised. "Beds are good, if they've survived the rats and birds, if only for padding for the bags."

He pulled around to the first prospect and threw the car into 'park' and quickly hopped out, grabbing his shotgun on the way. After checking the safety, he ducked down into the car, "Sit tight while I find us a decent spot. If a zombie decides to get fresh or Yogi comes lookin' for a picnic basket, blow 'em the fuck away."

He was near to the last cabin before he found one decent enough to stay in, one smelled of the corpse that had rotted in it, and most had been taken over by wildlife. The one Ira decided on only had to have some rabbits kicked out, and when he opened the door, they fell over themselves trying to escape. Faster than even Ira thought he was capable of, his foot had lashed out and connected with one of the larger ones, sending it across the room and thumping off the wall.

Dinner is served.

Ira stepped out and waved his hand, signaling that the cabin was the one. Felicia put it into gear and coasted it down the line until she was in front of it, then parked and turned the engine off.

"Place seems deserted minus the local fauna." Ira said, holding up 'dinner'. Neither girl reacted as positive as Ira had hoped at the fresh meat.

Their loss.


The girls spent a bit of time cleaning the place out, sending a small cloud of dust emanating from the room and setting up bedding while Ira dressed down the rabbit.

Their domesticating complete, they headed out to scavenge, stopping at the office first only to find the elements had done a good job of making everything within it useless via a hole in the roof.

"Better luck at the gift shop, maybe." Ira suggested.

"Yeah, cuz we need a 'I'm horny for the Tower' t-shirt." Felicia added wryly.

"Was more lookin' forward to adding to my snow globe collection there, Luscious." Ira quipped back as they walked.

The souvenir shop was in much better fair, having only suffered a broken window in its destitution. They found mugs, towels, clothing of all kinds, pillows, and Chinese-made plastic creations of all kinds and before long the girls were giggling as they mugged Ira, turning him into their own personal doll as they made him up into the Ultimate Tourist. Complete with a Devil's Tower replica that had googly eyes glued to it.

Ira willingly gave into the fun, taking his turn as he chased them around the store with the creepy 'Idol'. The fun ended too soon as Felicia gave over to a coughing fit, grabbing hold of a glass display case to keep herself upright. She apologized with a look for ending the hijinx, but Cass consoled her with a hug and Ira busied himself filling canvas 'Tower Tote' bags with pop from the coolers that hadn't exploded from heat or cold. He also found a stashed .22 with a couple boxes of bullets under the counter, but it would need cleaned well before it could be shot reliably.

"Gonna head next door to the 'Cafe', see what I can find, feel free to head back to the cabin and try to get a fire going and maybe the lantern. Dark is about 20 minutes away."

Ira grabbed a flashlight and a pack of batteries and busied himself assembling them as he walked over to the cafe.

"Feel like I'm in a Friday the 13th movie." Ira mumbled as he looked over the desolate grounds.

An owl's call reminded him of the approaching darkness and he double timed it into the building, only the wall of windows on the front of the place allowing him to see at all. He moved straight to the back, his suspicions confirmed that wildlife had ransacked everything out in the open. Startling an opossum, he quickly went through the kitchen doors and flicked on the flashlight. Spotting the fridge unit, he pulled the handle and backed up, knowing from previous experience that it was going to smell absolutely terrible.

That still didn't prepare him for the smell nor the sight of what had evidently been the last refuge of the people that were here. Now that he shined the light on the door itself, he could see the dents and scratch marks on its surface where attempts had been made to gain entry.

Well, it isn't the worst crypt I've seen.

He pulled the tourist sweatshirt up over his nose and walked in, his eyes already starting to tear up.

"You gonna eat that?" Ira asked, pointing behind the decayed corpses to a stash of large cans on a shelf. The gases from the decayed organic matter of the food and bodies had made the labels illegible. "Be our guest." Ira replied to himself in a high pitch.

"Thanks, you're too kind." He said as he gingerly stepped around the bodies and grabbed what he could, leaving the large can that still had a legible 'mato Sa' on it.

He closed the door to the 'crypt' behind him and headed back to the cabin, the orange glow from the window and smoke from the chimney signaling the girls had been successful.

The rest of the evening was fairly routine, they enjoyed a fairly decent meal cooked over the fire and even broke out one of the games they had got from the Walmartians. By the end of the evening they had each won a game of 'Blokus', though it took the combined efforts of the girls and Ira's indifference for him to be defeated.

With the girl's egos satisfied, they collectively called it a night and crawled into the 'bed' the unzipped sleeping bags doing double duty as pads and blanket over the scavenged mattresses that had been thrown together on the floor.

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Ira was fighting zombies. That wasn’t as unusual as it should have been, but this time, he was doing it with a gun he’d never owed. His comrades in arms were dressed in military fatigues; he felt helpless he watched them all get eaten, one by one. Then he was riding horses somewhere near mountains, only the horses were dead. The saddles had been clenched to bare ribs and the bits had rattled against rotting teeth. He didn’t know the young man riding next to him; a young teen with braces and south-of-the-border skin grinned at him with delight. He felt oddly happy and proud in that moment, taking joy in the kid’s joy.

Static popped and snapped at the edges of his awareness, making him twitch uneasily. It was like his world was surrounded in a haze of static. The boy didn’t seem to notice; he was just happy to be outside, riding on a horse. He bounced his heels on the horse’s skeletal ribs; the animal lurched forward into a faster gait. Ira felt his heart leap into his throat – it didn’t seem safe-

He was suddenly awake, momentarily disorientated. Ira had woken up in a lot worse places than this, he reflected as he regained consciousness. He was half-slumped on one side, with Cassie leaning against his chest. He could feel a hand on his thigh, but even through the jeans he could tell it wasn’t Cassie’s. Felicia curled behind him, her body half-wedged under his except for that hand. Even in the warmth of their shared bed, she felt cold to him. He could hear her breathing, a rasping, hitching sound that worried him. It stopped suddenly and Ira tensed, half-afraid she was dying on them right now. Then her slow breathing started again, and he relaxed.

Cassie stirred against him suddenly and he glanced down to see sleepy purple eyes blinking at him. “Hey,” he whispered, kissing her very lightly. This morning’s morning-breath was not to be shared with someone he actually liked.

She smiled at him before nosing in against him closer. Suddenly, Ira didn’t have much on his mind but the feel of two women in bed with him. Only the thought in the back of his head that Felicia was sleeping still kept him from moving to the next step – only her hand wasn’t helping.

The problem was solved when Felicia suddenly pushed back the covers and rolled to her feet. “You ok?” Ira asked, half turning to see and half to snug the covers back into place.

“Gotta pee,” came the groggy response as the sickly woman stumbled into the bathroom. As the door shut, Ira wondered how long she’d take. He started to run his hands under the Oracle’s shirt, making her squirm against him.

“My Knight is unbowed,” Cassie murmured, her hand on the front of his jeans.

“Damn right!” Ira whispered before kissing her neck.

Felicia’s scream cut into their fun, but neither super was slow to bounce to their feet, kicking off the blankets as the door slammed open. “Zombies!” Felicia yelped, grabbing for a gun. “Outside!” Cassie paled and Ira dove for his Citori. He started to head for the bathroom to see how bad it was when he glanced through the front and knew he didn’t need to go out back.

There was a ring of zombies around the Kabin, standing like silent sentinals.

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"How in the Hell..." Ira started.

Doesn't matter.

Ira marched to the front door and opened it quickly, sending it bouncing off the cabin wall as he hoisted up the shotgun and took aim. Shells cleared faster than humanly possible and within seconds, three zombies were down, clearing the path to the car.

"Grab our stuff and get to the car, I'll keep them clear." Ira yelled over the echoing gunshots before taking aim again as he stepped out into the dewy morning air.

Weird dreams, weird zombies, great start to the day...but why aren't they attacking?

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Ira was getting ready to pump another round into the zombies when his left arm seemed to tingle again. The Devil’s Tower in the distance seemed to glow in his eyes, as if beckoning him to it. He wasn’t sure how long he was caught like that, but the zombies standing between him and the Tower had moved, opening a hole – and were now between him and the girls in the car. Even now, they didn’t seem to want to attack.

“Ira! Come on!” The Nova roared again as Felicia waved to him. She sounded like she’d been calling to him for a while. “Blast a hole through them and let’s go!” Behind her, he could see Cassie peering at him, her expression afraid.

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What the fuck is happening to me?

Ira turned and started to walk towards the car, raising the shotgun casually at the zombie that blocked his path. None of the undead made any hostile move, but their look of hunger revealed their true 'feelings' on the situation. He went so far as to stand nearly nose to rotting nose, the stench of decay filled Ira's senses to the point of nearly making him gag at the taste.

"Bet you wanna taste real baaaad, eh buddy?" Ira teased, tapping him with the shotgun. The zombie tensed, clearly in a battle of self-will over its true desire, but it made no move. "Sucks to be you, I'm quite tasty I hear."

Ira shoved the barrel of the gun under the zombies chin and fired, knocking it back and leaving an opening in the circle long enough for Ira to dart through and hop into the Nova before they could close it with their ranks.

"Drive girl, 'fore they change their minds about breakfast." Ira said, flicking bits of decayed flesh off his shirt and out the window. "Let's get to the Tower so we can find out who is screwing with my mind and tell them to knock it the fuck off."

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Felicia was flooring the Nova already, her experience handling vehicles coming in handy as she was able to execute a moderate high-speed one-eighty without losing control or hitting anything. “Can you flick that out the window?” she asked, eyeing the pieces of zombie that Ira was removing from himself.

“Sure,” Ira said, tossing it out her window, inches from her nose.

“Yuck! I’m driving!” she howled, making the car swerve. Ira grinned and started putting them out his window. “Say, is going to the Tower really such a hot idea now?”

“The path as pointed leads to the slaughterhouse,” Cassie said.

“Oh, fuck, she’s starting to make sense,” Felicia said. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?”

“You’ve been headed that way for a while,” Ira grinned.

“But really, is this a good idea?”

Ira sobered. “I don’t think we have a choice,” he mumbled in response.

They were quiet for the rest of the drive. It was only about twenty minutes; then they were in the parking lot below the trail leading up the tower. A weathered sign warned them about various perils, including wild animals and rock slides. Nothing mentioned zombies, but everyone was sure that was coming.

“Everyone coming?” Ira asked as they piled out.

“I think we should stick together,” Felicia said.

“Actually,” a strange voice interjected, “the Big Guy is going to want to see only those of you who’ve seen his call.” They all turned to see a dirty, tired-looking boy of about twelve. He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Don’t worry, anyone who stays at the car won’t be harmed.”

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"We can take the little snot if you all wanna go...what say you?" Ira said, casually tapping the shotgun on his shoulder to draw attention to it.

"I'm not beating up a little kid." Felicia said.

Cassie responded only by moving towards Ira and away from the drowsy tween.

"Eh, little fucker can't stop us anyway...let's go. Not leaving either of you girls alone for nothin'." Ira said, dismissing the skinny white boy.

If this kid is the harbinger of evil, I think we'll be fine.

Ira turned and offered Felicia his back and gestured with his head, giving her the invite to hop on. He knew she was not likely to make it far on her own, and this would avoid her having any issues. With the added bonus of her being at 'full' strength whenever they met the 'Big Guy'.

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Felicia looked like she wanted to argue, but Cassie put a hand on her arm. Felicia looked at her, Cassie met her gaze and the two had some sort of silent conversation. With a sigh, Felicia hopped up on his back. It didn’t take Ira long to adjust to her weight; there wasn’t enough of it for a girl her height.

“Ready?” the kid asked.

“Yeah,” Ira said, shifting Felicia one more time to be sure she was on his back right.

The boy turned and started up the path, setting a rapid but steady pace. He looked like he’d been doing this for a while; he walked the path like most kids walked the path to school. The trail went mostly up; Ira kept expecting to need a break, but his new body held out, keeping him moving. Cassie followed behind, a rifle in her hands. It was odd to see her armed; usually that was his thing.

“Kid what’s your name?” Felicia called after a while.

“Daven,” the kid replied. “Why is that guy carrying you?”

“Because the government gave me a vaccine to make me immune from the virus, and it made me really sick,” Felicia answered.

The kid stopped and turned, staring at her. “You can’t get sick?”

“The Happy Warrior is dying from health,” Cassie replied, looking sad.

“They’ve told me I can’t get the z,” Felicia said, shooting Cassie a hard look, “but I’d rather not test that.”

“Wow,” Daven said. “That’s cool. Sucks about being sick.” He turned and started walking again.

“Yeah.” Felicia pressed her cheek against the curve of Ira’s neck her breath chasing away the chill of the morning. “It sucks.”

They followed the path for over an hour. Eventually the kid took one of the forks and began to move around the edge of the Tower. By now, the sun had burned through some of the chill of the morning and Ira could feel the first signs of building up a sweat. Daven stopped again and pointed up another fork. “You might see some zombies, but it’s okay, they won’t attack. The Big Guy, he looks a little weird, sick like your friend, but he’s okay too, okay? Promise me you won’t shoot him? He doesn’t want to hurt you. He just wants to talk.”

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Originally Posted By: Felicia
“Yeah.” Felicia pressed her cheek against the curve of Ira’s neck her breath chasing away the chill of the morning. “It sucks.”

Yeah...it does. Maybe we should go see Myf.

Originally Posted By: Daven
Daven stopped again and pointed up another fork. “You might see some zombies, but it’s okay, they won’t attack. The Big Guy, he looks a little weird, sick like your friend, but he’s okay too, okay? Promise me you won’t shoot him? He doesn’t want to hurt you. He just wants to talk.”

"Promise not to shoot? Do I look stupid? Some 'Big Guy' is invading my thoughts and controlling zombies like dogs on a leash. The best you're gonna get is for me to agree not to act first. Your boss keeps his distance and mumbo jumbo to a minimum, and we'll be fine. He so much as blinks at me wrong and I'll air condition his brain, kapeesh?" Ira said sternly.

It was hard to be intimidating when you had a frail woman hoisted on your back, even more so when she was nuzzling him, but if Roland could do it, so could he.

"You said it was this way?" Ira asked rhetorically, taking a few steps down the aforementioned fork. "C'mon Baby, let's go. Let's see how this all's gonna shake down."
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"You do kinda look stupid," the kid said, getting out of the way of the three. "I mean, this guy can control the zombies around here, and you wanna put holes in him so he can't control them anymore. Super powers or not, you guys will be lucky to survive." Daven shrugged. "Just give me time to get the hell outta here before you do that, ok?"

Ira opened his mouth to explain in graphic detail why insulting someone when he had two friends and you had none was a bad idea, but Felicia unintentionally cut him off. "Why do you think we have powers?" Felicia asked.

"Because everyone who comes to see him does," Daven answered, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Why is that?" Felicia asked, her eyes narrowing at the child.

"Fuck if I know." The kid looked annoyed. "He doesn't tell me everything."

"Which means you're unimportant, kid," Ira snapped, turning his back on Daven and starting up the path. After a second, Cassie was scrambling after him. The path was stepper and quickly started to look familiar to Ira. He realized that the rock ahead was the one he'd seen in his vision. They were being led right to that spot.

The path made a last turn and they were there. Only instead of being alone, there was a zombie waiting for him. "Shit!" Felicia said, scrambling off Ira's shoulders while Cassie pointed her gun.

"Wait!" the zombie said. "I'm sorry to startle you, but people seem to be more afraid if I hide from them first. My name is Kyle, and I'd like to talk. Please." He looked like most zombies, but on second look, his eyes were normal. There was no film of death over his eyes and it made him look more unsettling - those eyes didn't belong in that face.

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Ira took a step back in surprise as 'Kyle' addressed them.

Holy shit. That'll be me one day...hopefully not sitting alone with some kid on a big rock...

"Yeah, well...talk." Ira said, sloughing off his disturbing first impression. "I'd like to hear why you called, and to what purpose, so I can promptly tell you to go fuck yourself and leave me alone."

All these freakin' 'super' people think they can just go around and tell people what to do...this guy's even mind-fucking the zombies...god damn sicko. I hope it stops there.

Ira shuddered at his own thoughts as his stomach churned.

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“First, thank you all for coming. Also, let me say sorry about the way that I called, but I couldn’t start a forum online as I would have done last year. Could I have your names?”

Before anyone could reply, Felicia said, “Uh… why?”

Kyle smiled. “Merely so that we can have a civilized conversation.”

“About what?” Felicia asked. “What could we possibly have to talk about?”

“There are three types of creatures born of the virus,” Kyle said. “Those that become zombies, those that become supers and those that are like us, the so-called super-zombies. I’m calling my brethren here to find out why. I’d just like to ask some questions about what you can do and how you came to be the way you are. I’d like to try to find some answers to our state of being.”

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Ira shook his head as he rolled his eyes.

"You are hardly my brother, and I don't think a simple chit chat is going to give you the low-down on how or why we came to be what we did. So can the Dali Llama zombie-shit and tell me why you really called. Cuz if that's all you got, I think we'll be going." Ira said, irritated.

Super zombie? Really? Who comes up with this?

"There's a nice campground down there with some wide open riverfront that we were enjoying before you sent your lackeys...which is seriously fucked up by the way...and I'd like to get back to it." Ira said.

Like, right where we left off.

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Kyle smiled, the expression pulling his rotting face in disgusting directions. "No, it would take long-term study, but I was hoping to get some basics, to start," he said. "Just enough to start looking for commonalities. In time, we'll probably need some genetic testing."

He must have read Ira's answer in his face, because he said, "In time, not now. You are correct, there is another reason. I'm seeking to build a community for those of us who are clearly marked by the z."

"Not interested," Ira replied.

"So I thought. Right now, you can join a community," Kyle said. "You'd be welcome in an enclave with your powers to help you. Even with whatever marks you as different, you'd be allowed to stay."

A rabbit hopped out of the undergrowth and to Kyle's feet. It was a spotted rabbit, clearly not wild. Disturbingly, blood crusted its throat and chest. Kyle picked it up casually and cradled it in his arms, continuing to talk. "That is not true for me, or those touched as deeply as me. And I believe that all of us who are so clearly associated with the virus will need a place. I'm asking that if you know of a place where we could build that enclave, even if you want no part of it." His hands idly stroked the rabbit's ears as its death-gazed eye stared at Ira. "Perhaps someday you'd like a place like that."

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"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all be drowning in fruitcake...no offense, but I'm starting to feel like I'm in a Bond movie and you're the creepy villain." Ira said, glancing with disgust at the rabbit. "I hardly think you need me to suggest somewhere for you to park yourself. Almost the entire country is empty, throw a dart at a map...you'll find somewhere.

"You can even have your minions carry you there in some palanquin." Ira mocked, gesturing with his arm in a broad sweep at the zombies he knew had to be just beyond sight.

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"I don't want anywhere," Kyle said, a tension in his rotten musculature being the only sign of his agitation. “I want somewhere safe to build the best possible enclave that I can. Someday, it may be the only place of safety for people like us. You’re free to disagree, naturally.

“Regardless, you don’t have to mock.” Did he sound a little put out? “If neither of those suit you, I was wondering if you’d like to try to learn to control the zombies yourself. I’m willing to try to teach you, if you want to learn.”

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"Well, I'm flattered that you think I'd know the perfect place, but really, that campground is as perfect as anything else, far as I'm concerned." Ira said, hoping to close that part of the conversation.

The idea of controlling zombies intrigued him, if for nothing else than the ability to keep them from chewing on the girls or him. But damned if he would sink to the level of making them servants. They had been human at one point, as had Kyle, though his humanity seemed to be leaking like his bodily fluids were out of his head.

Ira decided in that moment that if he did decide to succumb to the lessons, Kyle wouldn't last long enough to hand him a diploma. His line of thinking was a slippery slope that could very well end with an army of undead marching on every last vestige of humanity in an attempt to make the world 'safe' for zombies, and Ira couldn't live knowing he could have stopped it before it started.

He made a ploy of mulling over the decision, and looked to Cassandra and Felicia and silently asked them their opinion as he raised his eyebrows. Cassie looked at him, a little sadly, but offered no opinion he could discern. Felicia looked troubled, her expression plainly saying that the offer is far too good to be true, and Ira agreed somewhat, however he had to satiate his burning curiosity.

Ira turned back to Kyle, "What all would this teaching entail? And how does it work? And how long are we gonna be here?"

Kyle's answers didn't really matter to Ira, he had already made the decision.

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"I'm not sure," Kyle said honestly. "I gained this ability when I became sick with the virus. No one's agreed to learn it before, so we'll be figuring that out as we go. I don't know how long it'll take, but Daven can show you where to find food, and I'll help gather some more for you. You can stay in the cabins below. If you need anything, just let the boy or I know, we'll get it for you one way or another.

"As for how it works, for me it is a matter of filling up the zombies with my will," Kyle continued, unaware of how much this was grossing Ira out. "They're corpses, empty when there's nothing around to eat. I put something in that emptiness, fill it with myself and have them do what I want instead of their mindless urges driving them."

"Like that rabbit?" Felicia asked, her eyes darting down to the animal in question.

"What? No, he's... well, I'm not sure what he is, but its not a zombie," Kyle said, looking down at the cold, dead pet in his arms. "He doesn't seem to need to eat or anything. I can control him, but its not like with the zombies. Mostly he just hangs around. I think sometimes he's waiting for something."

"Cre-eeeepy," Felicia murmured.

"Yeah, it is," Kyle agreed. "Friendly little guy, though." He smiled as he petted its ears again. "So what's everyone's names?"

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Damn vorpal bunny is what it is.

"I'm Ira, and this is Cassandra, and Felicia." Ira said, gesturing to his two companions. We shouldn't need much, just raided a Walmart, but I appreciate the offer. I think I speak for all of us when I say the one request we will have' is to keep the zombies clear of us. Control or not, we all have ghosts and don't need to be reminded of them constantly."

Or ever would be nice.

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"You got it," Kyle said, his face twisting ghoulishly. It took Ira to realize that was a big, wide smile. It looked a little like Kyle was getting ready to take a bite out of something or someone. "I'll make sure they stay clear of the campsite from now on."

He paused a moment, smiling still. "So, would you like to start now, or would you like the rest of the day to get settled into your new home?" The senient zombie looked way too pleased with all of this at the moment.

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What did I just sign up for?...Don't worry Ira, you can still shoot him at any time, just a few hundred unleashed zombies to deal with if you do...

"Its early yet, and we're already here. We can resettle later. It isn't exactly easy to get up here, you know. Like some mystical Chinese man on the mountain crap." Ira said.

Screwed up Tarantino-Disney movie. Kill Bill meets Mulan meets Resident Evil.

"This is where you would say something prophetic and meaningful and then the montage would start and suddenly its two weeks later and I'm suddenly kick-ass and you're nodding wisely in the background." Ira said, smirking.

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"Sorry, prophecies are not my forte," Kyle said with a good-natured grin. “Well, first things first – I’d like to know what each one of your zombie marks is.”

“My what?” Felicia asked, looking a little freaked.

Kyle frowned, looking a little frustrated. “Sorry, it’s not a great phrase, but it’s what I have. What marks you as one of the super zombies instead of just a regular super? Mine is… well, all of me.” He waved vaguely at his face.

“Why do you want to see?” Ira asked indignantly.

“Mostly because you guys all look normal,” Kyle said. “And some of them you can’t see – the taste for human flesh, for example, is one of the worst ones I’ve heard of so far.”

“Well trust me, it ain’t nothing like that… I have more physical issues,” Ira answered, grimacing. “Cass and Felicia are my entourage – they go where I go.” He didn’t like talking about them like that, but he didn’t want Kyle to send them away. He didn’t trust Kyle or his minions to keep their teeth out of them.

“Oh, well, this will be interesting,” Kyle said and Ira tensed. “We’ll see if normal supers can learn this, too.”

“I’m not… uh, like Ira and Cass,” Felicia said quickly. “I’m just normal.”

“Oh, well that makes it more interesting. I’ll try to teach you all, but… well, I don’t know. You’ll see what I mean in just a moment. Let’s go somewhere more comfortable.”

Kyle led them back down the trail to a picnic table. As he got close, he put the rabbit down on a rock; the bunny shook itself and settled into a comfortable crouch. A zombie waited quietly next to the table; Kyle pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, scrawled a note and gave it to the zombie. “Give that to Daven,” he ordered, and the zombie shambled away agreeably.

“What was that?” Ira asked suspiciously.

“I asked Daven to bring up some food,” Kyle said. “We’re going to be here a while, you don’t have any with you and you’ll learn better if you aren’t hungry.” Before Ira could object, Kyle pushed on. “So, first thing we need to learn is for you to feel the zombies. You can feel the bunny, though he's a little weird feeling. You might try to see if you can find the zombie nearby, to start. I feel it in a, like… tugging on my skin. Ira, see if the part of you that is zombie does the same. Ladies, I’m not sure how’d you do it, but try to see if you can sense the one nearby.”

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Tuggin' huh?

Ira could relate to Kyle's method, and it made him think of the times on the way here in which his arm tingled, starting with the original, 'COME' back when they escaped from Cheyenne Mountain. He didn't really know how to go about it, so his first attempt didn't add up to much beyond holding his arm out and miming the use of a Jedi Force power and concentrating really hard.

Felicia nearly giggled at the absurdity of Ira's look while Cass' look moved from Ira to the departing zombie and back.

"Nothin'" Ira said.

"I wouldn't expect you to feel it the first try. Try again." Kyle responded.

It took the better part of an hour before Ira could solidly say that he felt the tingling presence of a zombie through his arm. To him, it almost was as though he could reach out and direct it like a marionette, but the strings kept falling through his grasp.

Deep in concentration, Ira hadn't noticed the food arrive. It was mostly packaged, but there was some wild pickings of fruit and berries.

"I felt it! I felt the zombie! No...wait...not like that..." Ira said, excited at his success.

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Cassie mutely shook her head; Felicia was still focusing, her head bowed and her eyes closed. Daven was the only one to eat, so far, the boy's lips and fingers bearing the marks of the blackberries he'd consumed. He looked on with little interest at the proceedings.

"That's great, Ira!" Kyle said, looking genuinely excited for the young man. "I'd hoped that you'd catch on, but I'm so happy that it happened so fast!"

"We don't seem to be getting it," Felicia murmured; when Ira looked at her, she was slumped forward on the table, her head on her arms. Wearily, she turned her head to look at them and he was shocked at how drawn she looked. Her skin, usually a warm brown, was a pale color that hinted at gray. Deep circles were around her eyes.

Wordlessly, Cassie peeled open a can of tuna and handed Felicia a fork, fretting at her until the woman started to eat.

"I wondered about that," Kyle said. His voice was had more gentleness than before. "I'd appreciate if you keep trying but don't hurt yourself over it. Ira's made progress - that's enough to make me happy."

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"I think we're gonna hafta call it for the day." Ira said, looking worriedly at Felicia and locking concerned eyes with Cass for a moment. "We can pick up tomorrow when we've all had some good rest."

"That will be fine." Kyle said, standing up. "Feel free to take some food with you, Daven can help you back to camp."

"We'll be fine, thanks for the food." Ira said

They packed what they could of the food in their pockets that would survive the trip. Felicia didn't put up nearly the fight that she had before at being carried by Ira back to camp and mostly just leaned against his back.

Once they were about halfway back to the Kabin and Ira felt they were about as alone as they were gonna get, he let his concern show more openly, "You feelin' okay back there?" he asked.

"Mmm-hmm, just tired." Felicia mumbled back.

"When we get back, feel free to pass out." Ira said.

"Sounds like a plan."

They made it back to the Nova without incident or zombie sighting and as the heat of the day was just beginning to reach its peak, they made it back to their once former and now current again, abode.

Ira had just gotten a sleeping bag laid out when Felicia laid down and promptly fell asleep. Aside from her obvious exhaustion and poor color, Ira couldn't see anything else wrong with her, but he wasn't exactly sure what he should be looking for either.

"If she isn't better by morning, I think we should discuss heading to see Myf. We had talked about it before, but its clearly becoming less of an option and more of a necessity." Ira said to Cass, keeping a comforting hand on Felicia as she slept.

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Cassie silently nodded, moving to lean against Ira. “Our Happy Warrior isn’t flourishing,” she said softly, winding a hand through his. “Were we wrong to pluck her from the stone greenhouse?”

“No, she wanted to go,” Ira said, squeezing her hand tightly. “She wants to be here with us, Cassie.” His oracle’s purple eyes looked at him with sorrow, and he could see what she was thinking: But what if that kills her? “If she keeps getting worse, or doesn’t improve, we’ll take her to Myf. Kyle and his freaky power-stuff can wait. Baby, she’s not going to die, not if we can stop it.” Ira sincerely hoped that they could – or that Myf could.

Worries about Felicia trumped Ira’s intent to continue what had been started this morning and he and Cassie spent the rest of the day talking quietly and watching their companion. Felicia slept like the dead, barely stirring, but as time passed, both the supers could see an improvement in her. Slowly, she seemed to regain color in her expression, and as darkness fell, her breathing seemed to come easier. Ira and Cassie woke her when they had some canned chili ready.

“How are you feeling?” Ira asked her.

“Tired still, even after sleeping… how long?”

“About eight hours,” Ira said, eating his own bowl of fire-warmed canned grub.

“Have you found Colonel Mustard for the weapon of your destruction?” Cassie asked.

“What?” Felicia asked. “I… the game Clue?”

Cassie nodded as Ira chuckled and explained, “She’s asking if you have an idea of what’s going on. As in, do you have a clue?”

Felicia laughed. “Now there’s a game I miss,” she said softly. Clearing her throat, she sighed and said, “I think it was something that I was trying to do. I kept trying to sense the zombie, and it seemed like there was something… I pushed too hard. I’ve been trying not to do anything like that, so that I don’t end up being a burden. Guess I pushed it too hard.”

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"You felt something?!" Ira asked, shocked. "How is that even possible? You should try to take it easy though, whatever you were doing, it put you on death's doorstep and we don't have any medevac available. But that you felt something...that's pretty cool."

"Yeah, I think I will try some more. I want to know what it is, I just need to be more careful." Felicia answered around a spoonful of Hormel.

"Alright, just take it easy...and speaking of Clue, let me check something." Ira said, getting up and heading outside, Chili in hand.

Dark had set in, but his eyes adjusted quickly as he unlocked the trunk. It was packed pretty tight and its feeble little light was being thoroughly blocked by supplies making it difficult to sift through. After a few minutes of searching he finally yanked out what he was looking for. He quickly locked the trunk and ran back inside.

"Its not Monopoly, but we could have some fun with this." Ira teased, pulling Clue out from behind his back.

Felicia looked over at his reveal and in an action contrary to her condition, leaped up with a squeal of delight and nearly tackled Ira as she gave him a kiss. It lasted just long enough to bring a tingle of arousal from Ira, and plenty long for him to come to the mental decision to at least not pull back, as he had long wished for it to happen. When she pulled away, (too soon for Ira), she seemed embarrassed, but gave him an awkward hug and turned around, pointedly avoiding eye contact with Cass.

"Glad you like it." Ira said, smirking.

Her only response was a nod as she began to set the board up on the table after removing the brittle cellophane.

The rest of the evening was endured in awkward silence, with only small fits of conversation mostly dealing with Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard and outright arguments that the Zombie Butler did it in the Graveyard without a weapon.

Eventually they decided to bed down for the night and long after both girls had descended into slumber, Ira laid between them, awake as he concentrated and reached out for zombies. It took a little less time than before and the pull was stronger, but that seemed to be as far as his newfound ability could manage. He tried giving a command, but he didn't really have an idea as to how he should do that, and it seemed to fail, or at least there was no confirmation through the connection.

Ira spent most of the rest of the night working to strengthen the connection, eager to master what he could, but even his resolve couldn't hold off his need for rest forever and sleep overtook him.

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Ira woke up from the gentle shaking of his shoulder. He started, his body going into combat mode, but it was only Cassie. She smiled at him, a smile he knew and loved, and pressed a finger to her lips. Ira returned her excited grin as he caught on to what she was doing. Grinning, he reached for the buttons on her shirt, only to have her catch his hands and shake her head.

Still holding his hands, she pulled him out of the bed and toward the door. They paused only to check and make sure that Kyle was keeping up on his promise to keep the zombies far away from them. Then Cassie was tugging him over to the car. They stopped next to the Nova, Cassie standing on her tiptoes to kiss him. As they kissed, he could feel her fingers digging in his pants for the keys. He growled a little and pressed himself against her, pinning her against the car. It took longer to get the keys, but neither one of them cared anymore.

They unlocked the car and clambered into the back seat, taking advantage of the cramped privacy. There were a lot of giggles and some ows as they managed to strip. For a short time, they weren’t lost in a crazy world full of zombies; they were just two young people making love the backseat of a car. For a long moment after, they lay still and quiet, just enjoying each other. They wanted to stay a bit longer, but there were things to do; obligations to fulfill.

The two got dressed and got out, holding hands as they headed back for the cabin. Ira was happy and content, or as content as he could get in this situation. There was only one small dark spot in his heart; some little part of him thought that it could have been a lot of fun with three people.

Back at the cabin, they found Felicia was still asleep. Moving quietly, they began breakfast and the morning showers. Once the spagettios were warm, Ira knelt next to Felicia and gently shook her shoulder. “Mmm,” she murmured, then rolled onto her back, blinking up at him. “Ira.” His name was a sleepy purr on her lips.

“Breakfast and your turn for the shower,” he told her.

She looked around, saw Cassie and the pot and nodded. “Thanks. You guys shouldn’t let me lazy around so much,” she complained. “I should do more.”

“Our happy warrior does enough,” Cassie said, smiling.

Though Cassie didn’t seem to be malicious about it, Felicia looked a bit guilty, her eyes darting to Ira. She was subdued as she ate and showered. Once she was ready, they drove back out to the Tower. The walk up was like the day before; Felicia rode on his back and Cassie followed. Today though, Daven greeted them with a wave and a smile instead of banter and insolence.

Kyle was waiting for them at the picnic bench. “I’m glad to see you back,” he said with a smile. A few more pieces of wild fruit waited for them. “How’s everyone doing?”

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Originally Posted By: Kamp Kounselor Kreepy Kyle
Kyle was waiting for them at the picnic bench. “I’m glad to see you back,” he said with a smile. A few more pieces of wild fruit waited for them. “How’s everyone doing?”

"Great." Ira said, genuinely, as he let Felicia down. The last twenty-four hours had been good for him, with a forbidden kiss, a growing confidence in his new ability and even getting lucky this morning, he couldn't imagine something better considering the state of the world. "You look nice and juicy...you have a great night?"

Ira sat down across from Kyle and popped a wild strawberry in his mouth. He was eager to continue the lessons and see how far he could take this power. Aside from his seeming ability to cheat death, Ira had never really considered himself a 'super', let alone some kind of 'super-zombie', but if having some command over the undead that had plagued his life with travesty the last few months was the trade off for having a disgustingly ugly arm, he thought he could deal with that.

He still thought it was violating, and reminded himself of why he was doing it. No more carnage, no more haunting memories.

"My night was good, thank you for asking." Kyle said, still smiling and ignoring the baited comment. "Are you ready to begin?"

Kyle gestured to the girls to have a seat, "We'll start with a recap exercise to re-attune with that feeling you felt yesterday. Go ahead and begin when you are ready. Felicia and Cass, you are welcome to continue to try as I work with Ira."

Ira calmed himself, using the practiced routine from the previous day and his night of methodized attempts and relatively quickly felt the pull of a nearby zombie. "I can feel it...kinda...not sure where it is though" he said, looking up at Kyle.

"Good!" Kyle said, elated at how quickly this was going, "I positioned some of the undead at varying distances and would like to test how far you can reach today, as well as your ability to focus in on them. Use the pull as checkpoint and push farther, expand out and feel the pull of the next one nearby."

It took Ira a couple hours to figure out how to even try to maintain the pull of the first one without letting it go while he searched for more. Every time he would try to widen the view, his first would fall away. "Dammit, it's not working...every time I reach out it's like...it's like the first one rapidly decays and falls apart."

"Patience my young Padawan, all in good time." Kyle said with a twisted grin that only served to increase his sinister look. "Try not to rush away from the first, ensure the stability before moving on. Hold it tight for a moment. Or, alternately, skip the first entirely and just try to reach out as far as you can, feel the pull of the zombie as its presence draws you in. Ignore the ones that are close and not the one you choose."

Yes, Emperor...next you'll be asking me to join the Dark Side.

"Alright. I'll try that instead." Ira huffed, bearing down to concentrate again. "I have the weirdest craving for orange juice..."

Over the next few hours, Ira managed in varying degrees of success to sense zombies farther and farther away as Kyle moved the closer ones out. By lunchtime, Ira was nearly exhausted and eager for the food that Daven brought and wasted no time digging into the meal. Within a few bites, he had finished off a package of Top Ramen and was starting into a bag of jerky when he looked over at his two companions that he had unintentionally ignored all morning.

"How's it going Cass? You feelin' anything?" Ira asked.

"My Knight fairs better, I am no Zombie Queen, this gauntlet is better suited for the undying." Cass said, exasperated as she fiddled tried to tear the lid off a pack of canned oysters. "The methods of Rip Van Winkle call to me."

"If you wanna sleep, that's fine...there's board games in the car if you and 'licia wanna play." Ira suggested as he glanced over at Felicia. She was somewhat pale again, and was partially laying on one arm as she picked at a can of Chunky soup with a spork. "That is, if she's up to it."

"I'm just tired...I'll play if you want." Felicia said, glancing quickly at Cass, but keeping her gaze down.

The afternoon was relatively uneventful. The girls napped and played games, Cass wandered off at some point, but soon returned and all the while Kyle continued to instruct Ira, trying to teach him to reach out to the undead as he did. Ira didn't progress much further than he had all morning and the afternoon was becoming exhaustingly monotonous. Sometime around 3pm, something bumped into Ira's leg and he nearly jumped out of his skin in surprise, "The Hell was that?!" as he yanked his feet from under the table and looked down. The girls and Kyle all bent over and looked under with Ira to see the Zombunny who was focused on Ira.

Creepy goddamn thing.

"Shoo, varmint." Ira said, gently nudging it with his foot. This only seemed to encourage it and it hopped up on the bench between Felicia and Ira. Felicia immediately jumped up with a yelp and backed away from the table while Ira shied away slightly. "Yeah, that's not gonna work for me, Rabbit."

Ira picked it up and held it out at arm's length, the cold, non-living flesh turning Ira's stomach. He handed it across to Kyle who took the fluffy creature and began petting it soothingly while Ira wiped his hands off on his jeans. Felicia moved back to the table, not taking an eye off the bunny until she was sure it wasn't going anywhere. "I hope we're done soon, that thing creeps me out." she said, sitting down.

"Yeah, Sugar, couple more hours and we'll call it a day." Ira reassured.

"Fine." she responded and Cass just shrugged, looking very bored.

"Alright, let's see if you can pinpoint a zombie, up until now, you can feel them, but haven't been unable to tell me where they are. I've moved one in close, but out of sight, tell me where it is." Kyle said, stroking the Zombunny as it peered at Ira.

"Okay, let's do this." Ira answered. He took a deep breath and zoned everything out, letting his arm be the dowsing rod as he sought out the nearby decay encrusted former human.

This time was no different, he waited for the pull and then tried to follow it. It started to slip away, just as before, but the pent up frustration of the day exploded and he forced forward, locking onto the zombie. "It is there, about 60 feet away, behind that pine tree." Ira said with confidence as he pointed.

Another day, another hurdle.

"Good!" Now do it again." Kyle said, urging him on.

Sighing, Ira suppressed the urge to try and tell the zombie to do something and pulled back, then tried to do it again, but failed to even feel anything. He tried for an hour, never getting any pull before finally throwing his hands up in frustration. "I don't think it's happening again today, I'm exhausted, Felicia is tired, Cass is bored out of her mind and that fucking rabbit won't stop staring at me. We can try more tomorrow."

"Sure, Ira. I will be here." Kyle said. "Have a good night."

The trio made their way back to the Kabin and before Ira could even think of starting a fire or taking off his shoes, he was fast asleep, passed out on the bed.
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The days passed like that, with the three amusing themselves in the Kabin at night. Ira was the only one progressing with the lessons; Felicia’s progress was slow, when it was there. Cassie didn’t even seem to try anymore. She usually spent an hour or two half-heartedly working at it before giving up. When she found a book in the trunk of the Nova, she even gave up that pretense, reading to herself. Meanwhile, the dead rabbit, which Kyle had named ‘George’ was even making friends, getting Cassie to pet it once and Felicia to stop running away whenever it came close.

There were other changes, too – mostly improvements. Felicia didn’t wear herself out anymore, and she and Cassie seemed to have worked past their awkwardness over The Kiss by simply ignoring it. Kyle was as good as his word and gave them a mile zombie-free radius. The only time they saw them was if Kyle needed one for something. The Kabin became more and more like a home; the wildlife was used to staying out of it and slowly it began to acquire that ‘lived-in’ look. They started to call it home, too.

It was perhaps only natural that something would go wrong.

“So, am I ready for the Jedi mind trick?” Ira asked at the end of a long day. It had been his best day yet; even with Kyle moving the test zombie around, Ira had been able to zero in on it all the time.

“I think so,” Kyle said, looking pleased with himself. Cassie glanced up from her book, then rose, stretching. She came back to Ira’s side, giving him a kiss on the cheek and taking his hand. Their fingers laced together, fitting around each other like they belonged. Meanwhile, Kyle glanced at Felicia, asking, “Do you mind if I move on?”

“Not at all,” she said graciously, stifling a yawn. “Maybe you’ll tell him something that will help me.”

“Good point,” Kyle said, looking back to Ira. “So you have a good grip on feeling out where they are. For me, all zombies are empty. There’s something inside them that is missing. I don’t know what it is – maybe the soul. Maybe sentience. But regardless, they have these… holes.” Next to Ira, Cassie stiffened, her fingers tightening around his. Kyle continued onward. “I fill up those holes with my will for them and if I do it right, it works. Now, finding the right trigger is the key, the right thing to use within yourself to do that. But that’s the gist of it. They’re empty, so you put something else inside of them.”

“That sounds… phallic to me,” Felicia said, smirking. “Are you sure you aren’t just projecting?”

“Maybe I am,” Kyle said, leaning toward her a little and smiling. His manner was a little flirty, but he also seemed to know that Daven had a better chance with the unattached woman. It reminded Ira of a lonely geek who knew he’d never have the girl and just enjoyed what little he could have. “Does it help?”

“Since I don’t have a cock to imagine jamming into a zombie’s skull, not really,” Felicia said with a wide grin.

“And I’m done,” Ira said, rising from the table. “I need to get rid of that image. C’mon, ‘Licia, hop on.” Grumbling, the woman allowed Ira to put her on his back.

Ira waited until they were to the car before asking Cassie, “So what was all that clenching about back there?”

“What?” Felicia asked as she held the door for Cassie. “What do you mean?”

“Cassie got real tense when Kyle mentioned holes,” Ira said, watching his girlfriend duck into the middle seat. Felicia slid in next to her, looking concerned. She didn’t say anything, but she put her hand on Cassie’s arm and her head on Cassie’s shoulder, offering silent support. “So what’s up, baby?”

He started the car just as Cassie said, “My Knight must step off the path.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Excuse me? What is that suppose to mean?" Ira asked, confused.

Looking frustrated, Cassie repeated, "My Knight must step off the path. He must... turn away."

"Turn away from what? You want me to stop the Jedi training?" Ira said, annoyed.

Cassie nodded.

"Why." The word itself was a question, but the tone was hardly inquisitive.

Cassie cringed a little, clearly not enjoying this. "The voids... they are the fabric of the world... they only destroy."

Felicia looked really uncomfortable, but tried, "Is this because of Kyle talking about holes?" Cassie nodded.

Ira caught himself at Cass' cringe, trying to shove aside his emotions, don't shoot the messenger. Before he said anything, he put the Nova in 'D' and started the short drive home. "Sooo... ummm.... kaaay.... nope, I have no clue what you're saying. Try again."

Cassie gestured as she spoke, but they didn't help. "The emptiness holds destruction. Not just for my Knight but for all."

"Kyle doesn't seem all that destroyed to me." Ira retorted.

Felicia said, "Uh... he's a zombie. That's pretty... messed up." At the glances from the couple, she said, "You know what? I'm not getting involved in this." The girl mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key.

Ira merely lifted his left arm to remind Felicia that he wasn't all that different.

"But do you want to end up like that?" Felicia asked, looking concerned - and forgetting about her statement to keep out. "What if that's why Kyle looks like that?"

"That's anybody's guess. I could end up looking like that, but I'll never be that much of a letch...well..." Ira smirked, "Maybe I am that bad, but I am way better looking. This ability he has, as disturbing as it is, is too good to pass up. We could go anywhere and settle down and no amount of zombies could change that decision. Some 'destruction prophecy' is worth it."

"Only to my Knight, not to the Oracle," Cassie said, her face stubborn. "My Knight might find the scale tipping favorably, but its tilt is hardly positive."

"So now you think I'm turning evil?" Ira scoffed, losing his playfulness.

Cassie looked surprised at his statement. "My Knight is good, only the sword he wants is evil."

"I don't disagree, but a weapon isn't good or bad. It is the one who wields it that decides its motive." Ira had heard this argument many times growing up with his Dad as an avid gun user. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

"The voids are destruction, the Lord of the Dead would see you use them," Cassie said, her voice stubborn. "Undead Hiroshima."

"I would love to see Undead Hiroshima, Baby, wouldn't you?" he pleaded.

Cassie made a frustrated noise. "Hiroshima kills all, the undead is only way it goes. It is walking a narrow path on a cliff, with the wind tearing at you."

"So let me get this straight, I'm suppose to just stop, kill Kyle...like I was planning anyway...and we continue on our merry way? Continuing to dodge brain-thirsty flesh eaters, brain-fucked survivors and psychotic would-be warlords and scrape out the rest of our lives?"

"A safe path or our Knight?" Cassie asked plaintively. "The omega approaches. It bears down upon us."

"If The End approaches," Ira said, making sure to over-emphasize, "then what the fuck does it matter? I'd like to have a fighting chance against whatever goddamn super zombie seems to have it out for me. A couple punk-ass kids nearly turned me into hamburger...what do you think someone with some kind of fighting capability, like you, would do to me?"

Cassie shook her head and opened her mouth, but no words came out. "My Knight is my Knight!" she finally blurted. "My Knight is a valiant warrior, he doesn't need the crown of the dead!"

"Your Knight has been shown that a shotgun will do fuck-all when it really comes down to it. I have no desire to control the zombies. I desire to have a defense, to tell them to leave me the Hell alone."

"The path is ruin! Motivations matter not; only the way forward and up!" Cassie was upset, and as was normal for her, she became less clear.

"Well, because obviously only what you think and say matters, what should we do now?" Ira knew it was a baited, passive-aggressive, manipulative statement, but he didn't care...he was mad, he felt disrespected, he wanted to argue. Who was she to say what he could or could not handle.

Felicia flinched at the statement and Cassie stared at him, then looked away and didn't say anything else.

It wasn't much longer before they pulled up to the Kabin and before Ira could hardly put it in Park and turn off the engine, Cass had got out of the car, slamming the door behind her.

"Why don't we go for a walk, Ira." Felicia said as they both watched Cass storm into the Kabin and slam that door behind her as well. "I have something I want to show you."

He knew she was probably just trying to give Cass time alone, and would more than likely try to talk out the issue with him, but he didn't care, nor did he want to talk. But he knew the thought of himself being alone with Felicia would stab at Cass a little more and it felt good knowing that he'd inspire a little more pain. He'd feel terribly guilt about it later, but right now he was riding a wave of hate.

Without answering her, Ira agreed by merely exiting the car and leaning back against it while he waited for Felicia to lead on.

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Felicia sighed as Cassie walked into the Kabin, her stance indicating that she wasn’t up for company. Ira clearly wasn’t either, but Felicia was more comfortable dealing with a man’s anger than a woman’s. Three years in the military had built on a life as the ‘almost-boy’ of the Suarez family. Even her mom had been a tomboy. It had tempered her instinctive feminine reactions – Yay, nurture for the win!

Drawing a deep breath and telling herself she could do this, Felicia started walking. Ira fell into step next to her, and the sickly woman shot a glance at him, quickly gauging that silence was the best course. A woman might have wanted to talk, but Ira was a pretty typical guy. The only sound was the crunch of gravel under their feet as they started to follow the road away from the campsite.

It was just shy of a mile, but Felicia soon found herself short on breath. She hid it from Ira, which was easy since he was brooding. She smiled as his dark expression reminded her of her older brothers and their ability to out-brood even emo kids.

The road turned south, but Felicia took the foot path leading off of it, Ira falling in behind her. The path was clearly maintained, but the signs of neglect were starting to settle in as grass poked through the gravel. The sun flashed off something ahead, a blast of silver light and then they were there. Felicia moved to the side so that Ira could see it too: the natural pond was nestled in the trees. The sounds of life shuddered to a stop as the two humans intruded, but there were signs that others had been here. A dock jutted over the water and a fiberglass canoe was upside down and beached up in the trees.

“I saw… this from the… road,” Felicia said, bending over and putting her hands on her knees. “Thought… you might… wanna see it.” She grinned up at him, trying to get her breathing under control. “I bet its stocked… bet its good… for swimmin’ too. Shit.” The last was an exclamation of her exhaustion.

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"Yeah, its probably got some bass," Ira conceded, "but I'm not exactly sure how we're gonna get them out...you okay? Look a bit winded."

"I'm okay...just a long walk for me now." Felicia replied.


"I used to run four miles a day."

"Oh...yeah." Ira picked up a rock and skipped it out over the water. "This is pretty cool." He walked over to the canoe, hands in pockets and looked it over, kicking the bottom lightly with his foot to test its worthiness. His foot didn't go through it, so it would probably float.

"You wanna go out?" Ira said, gesturing with an elbow. "I can paddle."

"Sure." she said, hesitantly. Internally, she was debating the consequences and possibilities of what could happen out on the water, but figured Ira was in far too sour of a mood to be in that mind set, and the physical exertion might bring him out of his funk.

Ira wrestled the boat down into the water and held on the shore while Felicia carefully climbed in and sat down on the small bench at the far end. Once Ira saw that she was balanced, he shoved off, hopping in at the last moment, but still managing to come away with a wet and muddy foot.

"Figures." he mumbled, slipping it off and banging it against the side a couple times to shake loose the larger remnants of shore.

The canoe slowly and silently sliced out onto the water, nature seeming to hold its breath in silence as it watched the pair. Ira made a couple strokes to point them towards the middle of the pond and then held the paddle across his lap, staring at the drips as they came off the end and settled back into the surface. His thoughts were miles and months away as he relived memories of family camping trips, fishing with his father, and fast weekends with Lisa.

I love you, Ira...I love you too, Leese...

Ira snapped out of his reverie and looked up and saw Felicia looking at him, "What."

"Where were you just now?" she replied.

"Not here." Ira answered, taking a deep breath.

"Hmm." She leaned back a little to bath herself in the warm sunlight, propping her arms on the side of the canoe. The light of the afternoon nearly took away the look of sickness, and for a moment, Ira could see what she must have been once.

"You know, you are exceedingly attractive." Ira said, making eye contact as she suddenly looked at him.

"Thank you and... awkward." she said smiling, looking both pleased and uncomfortable.

"Sorry...didn't mean--"

"No, it's not that...it's just that...the situation being what it is...you know...I couldn't do that."

"Yeah...I understand."

"I mean, this thing you seem to have for mortally-ill women...you should seek help, its not healthy."

Ira snorted on laughter, nodding in agreement, "I definitely need help. Hey, You look a little hot, are you okay?" he said, his face drawing down in concern.

Felicia looked surprised and put and arm to her head, "Yeah...I'm fi--"

The splash of water from Ira's paddle doused Felicia, the shock of the chilly water sending her gasping for a breath. She looked outraged as water dripped from her arms and face that seemed frozen in mid-shock, but then she moved quickly, leaning over and slapping at the water as she repaid him in kind. Ira put his arms up in protest, trying to defend himself, but was soaked nonetheless.

The splashing escalated until they were both quite soaked and the bottom of the canoe had a few inches of water in it. Ira pushed the battle further and started to rock back and forth, threatening to tip it. Felicia grabbed the sides and gave him an intense look, cocking her head to the side, "Don't you dare."

With a grin Loki himself would be jealous of, Ira shoved his sunglasses in his coat pocket, then rocked it even more and the canoe rolled, sending them both into the water. They both surfaced quickly and by happenstance under the canoe. Felicia spit out water, getting a hold of the wooden slat that used to be her seat with one hand while she dunked herself again quickly to move her hair out of her face. "You suck, Ira." she said, trying not to smile as she shoved him underwater.

Ira wiped the water from his eyes as he came back up and got a grip on her former seat, putting them face to face. Without speaking, he put his other arm around her and closed the remaining distance, finishing the kiss that had ended too early.

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There was a moment of hesitation from Felicia; then she pressed against him, her body warm despite the chill of the water. She had her doubts, but she also knew that she was dying. That changed a lot of things, like the thought of your betraying your friend with her boyfriend. Felicia had experienced several relationships and had her share of sex.

She was used to being the center of attention from boys, to having them come after her. But since the vaccine had ravaged her system, everything had changed. Where she’d been strong and vital, she was weak and frail. Her body had been taken away from her and she’d been left with a shell, an echo of what she was. After the vaccine, all the guys in the base had been afraid of her, or worse, pitied her. They’d never shown enough sympathy to throw her a pity fuck. She had been sure she was ugly now.

And then Ira had changed that. He wanted her; even with pretty Cassie around, he wanted her. He didn’t seem to mind the sick-bed look, or maybe he liked it. Whatever the reason, he hadn’t minded the kiss over the stupid game. She’d known that bringing him out here might get him in the water and get her in this exact spot, and she felt shame that she’d taken advantage of their fight.

But she also felt elation, that she was desired still, that the pallor and dark circles didn’t seem to matter to him. The hand around her waist slipped lower, pulling her closer, and Felicia felt the precipice they were racing toward. If this happened, what would happen? Would she and Ira become the couple? Would she and Ira go back to the same-old, only with the sin of betrayal secret between them?

Ira caught the edge of the canoe and moved it off of them without breaking the lingering, exploratory kiss. With one arm keeping her close, he slowly paddled for shore, his legs brushing hers occasionally. He accidently kicked her and murmured, “Sorry.” His eyes were gentle he got his feet under him and helped her gain hers, taking both of her hands in his as he walked backwards.


Yeah, she would feel guilty about this later, but she needed Ira to make her feel like she wasn’t walking with Death, that she had something alive and vital. Felicia shut away her concernsfor the future and took what she wanted.

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He knew he wanted this. It felt good and it felt sooo right. But he could feel it. Guilt. A rock solid ball of guilt. That nagging internal voice was trying to scream at him, tell him that what he was doing was wrong. To tell him that the repercussions were not worth it. It was going to get awkward. Real awkward. And that was the best outlook. If this was truly the woman he wanted, there were better ways to proceed. But all these required patience and a conscience, neither of which Ira had one iota of at the moment. He was living in this moment without regards to anything else. It was all about him and his desire and fulfilling that desire. Ira had wanted Felicia nearly since he had met her, but never had the opportunity been more right than now.


Their clothes were long dry by the time they got dressed, and only as Ira was pulling on his socks did he notice the beady dead eyes staring back at him from the dense undergrowth. Ira curled his lip in disgust, but said nothing else as he finished stomping his shoes on and silently offered a helping hand to Felicia. They started the walk back, hand-in-hand which Ira took nice and slow. Some was his concern for Felicia and her capability to make the trek back, but also because he was mulling over what exactly this meant for the dynamic of their clique.

His conscience was trying to gnaw at him, but as fast as it would throw logical reasoning at him, he would quash it with apathy or altogether ignore it. He had made the decision, there was no going back, there was no point in him beating himself up over what was a very wonderful thing. He had a mile to be content and fuck the world if he wasn't gonna take it.

Despite his meandering pace, Felicia soon started to flag, "Hey, Sugar, want a ride?" Ira offered.

"Haven't you given me enough rides today?" she said back, throwing him a hesitant wry grin.

"But I do so love it when you ride me, and I know how you like to be on top." he threw back, returning the smile. "C'mon, it isn't much farther. I promise not to tell anyone."

He turned and offered her his back, and because she truly was exhausted, she didn't fight and only rolled her eyes as she climbed on. It unnerved Ira how cool her skin was in the heat, but he relished her touch and the feel of her pressed against him. She gave him a kiss on the neck as she settled and got comfortable, before he continued on.

Unfortunately, returning from a journey always seems to go twice as fast as on the way out, and before he knew it, Ira was looking at his orange steed and the keep. He let Felicia slide down and made his way to the door of the Kabin. He paused for just a moment as he let out a breath and then opened the door and walked in.

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It was a long wait for the Oracle. She was angry and upset, but she knew she was right. Maybe, she considered as she waited for her friend and boyfriend to come back, she shouldn't say it like that. She needed to be better about bringing it up with Ira, though. Her problems with communication only made it harder.

It worried her, that her Knight was dabbling with the forces of destruction, and Kyle was leading him down that path. She knew Ira was angry with her, and she had broached the subject poorly. It was just hard to know what to say, even at the best of times.

The door opened and she looked up to see Ira. A relieved smile crossed her face; the relief faded a little as a sense of unease crossed her face. Cassie was sitting on the floor; as he came in, she rose slowly. "Where is the Happy Warrior?" she asked. "Is she well?"

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Ira nodded, "Yeah, she's fine. She's right behind me, Baby." It didn't occur to him that her sentence was neary 'normal' or that her primary concern wasn't for Ira, but for her friend. "Any requests for dinner? Was thinking of seeing what was left in the RVs. God, I'd kill for some ice cream..."

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Cassie grinned, feeling relief. He didn't seem mad at her anymore and the blonde waif crossed the room to give him a hug. "My Knight should avail himself of the rolling kitchens. The Oracle will find frozen sweetness."

"Well, there may not be any to have," Ira said, putting his arms around her with a smidgen of guilt. Those purple eyes gazed up at him as Cassie smiled happily.

"The Oracle knows secrets," Cassie murmured, going up on tiptoe to kiss him lightly on the lips. "The Oracle was as uncaring as a shark and wants to put the scale in-balance."

"You don't-" Ira started but with a pop, Cassie was gone.

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Ira sighed and shrugged.

At least I get ice cream.

Feeling all the worse for Cass' attempt to please him, he put on his sunglasses and went back outside. He saw Felicia sunning herself in the fading light of the afternoon on the unique orange of the Nova. She shielded her eyes with one arm as she turned her head to look over at him coming down the steps of their home.

The post Z-day cover for Road & Track, ladies and gentlemen.

"I'm gonna go check the RV's for food, Cass went to get ice cream." Ira said, starting to walk down the path.

"Um, okay." Felicia replied, confused. She slid down and threw her legs over the front fender and jogged a few steps to catch up, "She was okay with it?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Are you going to?"

"Do you want me to?"


"Yeah, honestly."

"I want my last days with you and Cass to be happy. If that means not telling anything, then that's it. You... get her better than I do."

"I guess...sometimes I wonder." A large portion of stress was relieved from Ira knowing that Felicia probably would never tell Cass what happened, but he was saddened to think that Felicia thought so little of herself to think she would die any day. He certainly didn't have such grim thoughts himself and her death was the last thing going through his mind. "You're not gonna die Felicia."

She shrugged her indifference as they closed in on the closest RV, the gravel underfoot crunching in gratitude to have guests. Ira yanked open the door of the RV, a stench of mildew and abandonment wafting over the pair. Felicia took a step back, waving a hand in front of her face.

"You go ahead, I'll wait here." she said, coughing.

Ira shrugged and leapt into the overpriced metal box, quickly rummaging through cupboards and storage with practiced moves. Occasionally a can of food would come tumbling out and down the step, rolling to a stop near Felicia.

"Anything good in there?" Felicia asked, watching a can of kidney beans bounce over her foot.

"There's some dried corn beef that looks promising, couple cans of Spam that might have survived and some Boyardee, not risking throwing those out. But I could really care less about the kidney beans."

"I dunno, I have a kickass chili recipe, been in the fam--"

"Chili is made from kidney beans?"

"Duh, Ira. What did you think they were made from?"

The rummaging paused for a moment, then started up again with the sound of a closing microwave. "So what all would you need, Sugar?"

Felicia rattled off a bunch of spice and saw Ira dart across the door opening to the other half of the RV before returning with a clothes hamper. A couple minutes later the hamper slid in front of the door, weighted down with various canned goods and bottles of dried herbs and spices on top.

"I took what they had, we can figure it out at the cabin." Ira said, grabbing the door frame and swinging himself out. He grabbed the basket of goods and yanked it out, pulling the weight onto his hips. "Ready?"


About halfway back, Ira asked, "So... the lake."


"Was that a bucket list thing, or do you really like me?"

"It was both. I do want you but I wouldn't have done that to Cassie if I wasn't dying."

"And what if you don't die?"

"Then I'll be very surprised. I can't get up my hopes like that. I feel sick all the time, just tired and achy. I don't want to miss out on what little time I have left with a massive 'what if'."

"Alright." The answer wasn't what he wanted to hear and he really didn't feel like delving into it anymore. He would probably just find out things he didn't want to know. He'd just have to take what he got as he wanted to take it and leave it at that.

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