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Aberrant: Dead Rising - Origins: Relationships are History (James)[Mature] [Finished]


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This one has been in my head for a while so I thought I'd try to put it out here (obviously in pieces).

Fair warning, Adult situations, Adult context, and we've got a zombie holocaust coming up so there's going to be a lot of friends and loved ones eating each other. Parts of this will be dark.

Saturday November 11th, 2006, Two Days to Z-Day

10:00 am. Suburb of Fort Worth, Texas.

JoAnna & Jillian

JoAnna drove up the driveway at the house and parked, then nervously checked herself in the mirror. She'd spent two hours yesterday deciding what to wear, this meeting was a big deal. It'd been almost a year since she'd actually seen her sister Jill in person and they'd both gone through changes and kept secrets. About nine months ago Jillian had hooked up with a married "friend" named Chris who was trapped in an abusive marriage with Jackie. Supposedly Jill was helping Chris deal with his two young children as well as living and sleeping with him.

Where it got somewhat Springer-ish was for three months Jill didn't tell anyone that Chris was a woman and Jackie was a man. Jo had disliked being lied to but had always suspected Jill might swing that way, the two had made up the next day over the phone. Jill's parents had taken the news less well and still hadn't reconciled. They were still barely on speaking terms with Jill and their view of Chris didn't bear repeating. Making matters worse they knew Jack's parents. JoAnna had briefly talked to Chris several times on the phone but had never met her, so this was first impressions time. That also meant that Jo's secret was about to come out.

Jo looked in the mirror one last time. Makeup good but understated, clothes casual but well done. It was going to be interesting to see how long it took Jill to notice.

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JoAnna & Jillian

JoAnna got out, walked to the other side of the car, and picked up the three foot tall stuffed white rabbit that had been riding shotgun with her. It was a magician’s rabbit, complete with magician’s hat and wand. Little Jack was not quite 4, his younger brother John was not quite 2. Kids that age where supposed to like stuffed animals. Jo walked to the house but before she knocked the door opened and strong arms embraced her.

Jillian said, “Jo! Good to see you.” Jillian was a head taller than her sister and the two looked nothing alike. Jill was the classic Swedish ‘Barbie’, tall, good looking, very fair skin, with almost white blond hair while Jo was shorter, darker, and had raven hair from her Southern Italian ancestors. Jo was also considerably curvier, which was new.

Jill held Jo out at arm’s length and said in a surprised laugh, “Hey, what happened to you?” Jill then examined JoAnna’s face carefully and Jo gave back a big toothy smile. Jill continued, “Teeth, chest, um… nose? You go to California for a year and come back with a new you? Did you become an actress?”

Jo replied, “Almost. That’s my other big news. California was a bust, literally….”

Jill looked down at JoAnna’s bust and replied dryly, “So I see.”

Jo continued, “…but Vegas was not. I’m going to be doing magic in a Vegas resort. It’s big stage stuff.”

Jill looked surprised for a moment, then with a shout she embraced her again saying, “Congratulations! That’s good news. When do you start?” Both of them had known the odds of breaking into show business were very low, but it had been Jo’s dream for more than a decade.

JoAnna replied, “Three weeks. First part of December I become a name. You wouldn’t believe where I’ll be in six months. But right now is family time, I want to meet my new members.” Jo motioned with the rabbit, “So where are Jack and John?” Noticing a bandage on Jill’s arm she added, “And what happened to you?”

Jill answered, “Everyone is out back, I wanted you to myself for the first few minutes. And Little John bit me, hard enough to break the skin. Just a phase he’s going through I think.”

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  • 2 weeks later...


Jill walked through the house towards the back yard. To Jo's eye the house was modestly, but tastefully decorated. JoAnna thought, *A lot of this looks like SCA work. Fine print calligraphy. More calligraphy. Metal work, probably Jill's. Still more calligraphy. Someone has talent, and Chris is some flavor of artist so odds are good this is hers."

*Odd. They met at a Ren Fest but I'd been under the impression she wasn't one of us. I'd swear Chris wasn't big on Jill going to the SCA meets.*

JoAnna said, "This is nice work. Is it hers?"

Jill replied with a trace of pride, "Yes it is. She paints to but that's in another room. And here we are." Jill opened the door to the back yard and stepped out, Jo followed, and got her first look at Chris.

Chris wasn't what Jo had expected. Chris might have been pretty a decade ago but now 'plain' would be a good word. She was perhaps in her early thirties, at least 10 years older than the sisters. She had raven hair with a little gray in it and looked to be Jo's height. Her skin showed some serious tanning as a youth and while not over weight she had the physic of someone who didn't work out a lot. Chris had delicate hands and a friendly face. She'd been sitting on a bench but rose to greet Jo.

Jo smiled warmly and said, "Now you must be Chris?" *Wow this is out of character for Jill. I'd been expecting a fitness model, a body builder, or maybe a Greek goddess, but not a PTA mom. I guess love doesn't have rules.*

Jo spotted a pair of young boys almost but not quite hiding behind the bench and spoke to them, "And this must be Jack and John." Jo pulled the impossibly large magician's rabbit out from behind Jill's back and had him 'hop' towards the two. "And this is my friend Whitey. I was hoping he'd be your friend too."

Recognizing a present the two children ran forward and tackled the rabbit. Obviously brothers, both of them had thick dark hair that looked innately tousled.

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  • 2 weeks later...


As the children circled "Whitey", Jack a little reluctantly, Chris looked from Jill to Jo and back again. She'd never met JoAnna in person, but from pictures knew Jo was shorter and darker than her twin sister. But, these were twins? Chris had met Jillian's parents once in a disastrous meeting that had started out strained and awkward and had degenerated into dreadful yelling and name calling. Jillian looked like both her parents. Although very attractive and charismatic in her own right, Jo looked nothing like Jill and nothing at all like her parents.

Adopted? Twins? Something odd like test tubes? Chris shook her mind off of this, she'd ask Jill later. This was going to be an important relationship and she was standing there gawking.

Chris stepped forward, gave Jo a hug and said, "And you must be JoAnna. Your pictures don't do you justice. You look like you should be a model or game show hostess."

JoAnna smiled in honest enjoyment of the compliment, "Why thank you. I should tell you, I cheat." JoAnna gave a shrug that accented her chest and said, "It's a Show business thing. Everyone goes under the knife. My old pictures aren't bad, they're just not me any more. But enough of that." JoAnna clapped her hands together in a show-woman call to attention, "I was hoping to take all of you out to dinner and you could tell me all about everything."

Jill laughed and said, "Too late. Food is already being cooked. You're stuck with home cooking sister, and be glad for it, Chris is very good with all things boiled. Not only is she a better good than me but she can dye stuff too. And weave. And you've already seen her calligraphy."

"Growl!!!" John shouted as with extreme effort he picked up the stuffed bunny and tried to walk Godzilla like towards his somewhat fearful older brother who was retreating before the onslaught.

Jill said sternly, "John! No bunny wars."

Chris broke in and added gently, "John, I think Mr. Whitey is hungry. Could you put him down and get him a cookie?"

The two year old dropped the rabbit and ran screaming into the house. He was followed a moment later by his four year old brother.

Chris said to Jo, "That's one way to ensure cooperation. The cookies are out of John's reach so he has to get Jack to help him."

JoAnna asked, "I'm sorry if I brought something they'll fight with."

Chris sighed and replied a little sadly, "No, not your fault. John will fight with anything, he takes after his father. Despite the name, Jack Junior is more mine."

For Jo the clues were starting to add up. Chris was SCA, her husband Jack would fight over anything, Chris didn't want Jill to... ah.

Jo said in surprise, "Jack Bull. Your husband is The Jack Bull?"

Jill put in, "Ex-husband."

Chris corrected, "Future ex-husband. The Divorce is final in a few days."

JoAnna blinked. The Jack Bull was a knight, like Jill, and was pretty hard core, also like Jill. Jo said carefully, "Jack senior, ah, has quite a reputation."

Jill put in grimly, "Not after Wednesday he doesn't."

Jo asked, "The divorce is final then?"

Jill said even more grimly, "No. Wednesday is when I beat him up in front of everyone. After Wednesday everyone will know he's weak as well as an..."

Chris looked at the door and said with concern, "Little ears. They're not here, but for their sake I don't want to talk about him."

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Saturday November 11th, Two Days to Z-Day

12:01 PM: James DeBeer

Four men sat at a table eating lunch in the fire station. It’d been a quiet day.

James pointed at Dave and said, “Time.”

Dave responded, “21 days, 1 hour, Fifty…” Dave looked at the clock on the wall, “…Nine minutes. Not that I’m counting. And life isn’t going to ‘end’ in three weeks, it’s going to change.”

Jesus asked, “What’s going on? His ship finally come in? New job time?” Jesus was the youngest man in the fire department, and normally worked a different shift. It wasn’t a surprise that he was a bit out of the grape vine.

Fred answered, “No, that’s me. I’m getting a new job next month, my brother Dave here is only getting married. To James’ sister.” Fred gave Dave a smirk that was half “you lucky bastard” and half “thank god it’s not me”.

Jesus first thought was to ask 'Is she pretty' but with James right there he said, “Well, congratulations. But I’d thought James’ sister was already married?”

Looking very pleased with himself, Dave replied, “No, that’s his other sister. James has three. I’m going to get married to Mary, the baby of the DeBeer clan.”

James explained, “I’m the fourth of five. ‘Baby’ Mary is 22. Janet is the oldest, and is married, and she’s hosting my sisters and mom in a bachelorette’s week out in Florida. Her husband Rob owns a resort down there.”

Jesus asked, “Owns a resort? So he’s in real-estate?” Jesus wondered if James’ family was rich, if so he didn’t show it.

James replied, “No, he’s in oil.” With the patience of long practice from multiple explanations on this topic he continued, “Rob owns an oil services company, Janet was his secretary, they got married when she was 25 and he was 65. Yeah, I know. Quite the scandal, or coup, or something. Anyway that was 5 years ago, and she, well, she has a different lifestyle.”

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Saturday November 11th, Two Days to Z-Day

12:03 PM: James DeBeer

Jesus struggled for comeback to the open admission that James' sister had married a man old enough to be her grandfather. Several jokes came to mind but he didn't know James very well and wasn't sure how he'd take it. Like all the firemen Jesus worked out, but James was a rock and Jesus was the new guy to this shift.

Deciding to steer the conversation to safer waters, Jesus asked Dave, "If it's in less than a month, then you're all set with plans and all that? Church, Priest, outfits and all that?"

Dave replied, "Almost. We'll get married at her namesakes, Saint Mary's. It will be family only to keep the numbers and price down, you wouldn't believe what a big wedding would cost. The Tux shop has our measurements but they're not ready yet. Mary is running around getting things organized and her big sister is helping her. Other than the ring, which she picked, everything on my side I can dump on my best man." Dave nodded to the other end of the table.

Jesus said to Fred, "So what are you going to do?" As the new target guy Jesus was well aware of Fred's reputation as a practical joker. Joining Fred for 'jokes' on the new groom seemed like a much better alternative than being subjected to them himself.

Fred pointed to James and said, "He meant him. James is best man, I am just a minion."

James said, "Yep, I'm in charge, Dave and I go way back. While the girls are away it's my job to arrange for strippers and booze. Which will be Wednesday. Jesus, if you're off duty, you're invited. Party starts at 6 PM."

Dave mentally translated, *Strippers and booze. James has no imagination and a big part of his job is to make sure no one else does either, including and especially my brother Fred. Tin cans tied to the rear of the car, but no dead fish left inside the car engine or other similarly 'imaginative' things. In 21 Days I'm going to have a dull wedding.*

Jesus smiled and said, "Hey, who can say no to strippers and booze? We'll give Dave a solid funeral."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

3:24 AM: 'The Springs' Rest Home

Nurse Andrea Hettinger had seen better days, she considered herself 30 years and 50 pounds over her 'peak', and three and a half hours into her shift this was already shaping up to be an award winning bad day. Dejectedly she headed for a chair and noticed that Kate was in the next one. She didn't have anything against Kate except that she was 30 years younger and 50 pounds lighter. Andrea sat down next to Kate at the front desk and said, "And that makes 12. I'll tell you, we're going to end up in the papers on this one."

Kate was fresh out of nursing school and seriously considering applying to several hospitals for a different job. Their clients here at the laughably misnamed 'Springs' came here for their last few months or sometimes years of life and left only one way. While the work wasn't hard and she didn't feel underpaid, she felt it was depressing being around the sick and dying all the time. By the nature of the work, even when her patents got 'better' that was just a short uptick before she got to watch them die.

Kate asked, "Twelve? That's not bad. And it's just the flu, right? Even if it's bad..."

Andrea responded, "The flu works differently on our people Kate. I don't mean Twelve for the ward or for the building, I meant Twelve of my crew alone, and we're just getting started. And Kate? They're starting to smell. I've smelled death before and I smell it now. There's not much we can do for the flu and they've got it bad. Damn it, how did they all come down with it at once?"

Neither woman speculated about that one but both knew the answer. Someone had broken protocol. Maybe whoever made the food yesterday had been sick and contagious, and as old and infirm as their patents were, it was going to be a costly mistake.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

5:25 AM: James DeBeer

The alarm went off and like all the other firemen James was awake, dressed, and ready to go in less than 60 seconds. They were on the road before he found out what the situation was.

Captain Ron, known to his men as "the Man", told everyone over the radio that someone had pulled multiple fire alarms at a nursing home and dispatch now couldn't reach anyone there. Ergo while the presence of fire wasn't confirmed, multiple units, including the entire on duty twelve man crew were being sent.

Not that the Captain had asked for his input, but James approved. Nursing homes weren't normally the target of pranksters, damn their black souls, but they were filled with large numbers of people who couldn't flee a fire scene on their own power.

James half expected, and more than half hoped, that dispatch would call them off before they got there. It didn't happen. Dispatch had nothing more to say, which meant that someone really wasn't answering the phone. Not good. It was normal for situations to be not well understood when the crew was sent out. Fire was best fought while it was small, so 'act fast and act now' was the rule.

En route they picked up several police cars, but when they all pulled up to the building there was nothing. No smoke coming out of open windows. No nurses rushing around taking people out of the building. First responders got out of their vehicles and clustered around the front door knocking and ringing the bell. Some fire fighters started peering into windows and walking around the building.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

James DeBeer

Captain Ron shook his head at the men standing next to the front door with axes, James among them. Their unspoken question had been the usual, 'Do we take the front door down or not'. If there had been fire, or signs of fire, or the hint of the signs of fire, then they'd go in double time rapid speed; But no one likes having his front door destroyed because some idiot pulled the fire alarm 'accidentally' and this was looking more like that.

Mentally James relaxed a hair. While it was annoying to not have the 'thrill' of the fight, this seriously wasn't the place for it and if he had to choose he'd pick a false alarm, not that god was in the habit of asking his input. Still it was odd that no one had answered the door.

After a few minutes a civilian car pulled into the parking lot and a worried black disheveled man in his 40's jumped out. James mentally pegged him as a manager, pissed off that he had to get out of bed for what was looking more and more like a false alarm.

Captain Ron walked over and the two men exchanged words for a moment. Then man strode angrily passed the firemen and pulled out a key ring and unlocked the door and everyone went inside.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

James DeBeer

James was still carrying the ax with which he'd intended to break the front door down. The lights were on, the place smelled in that old fashioned "hospital" kind of way, front desk was empty, and the fire alarm was ringing and no one other than a dozen firemen was milling around.

Several hallways branched off the front desk area, each with a series of doors. James assumed each led to an old person's "home". He opened and looked in the first one and there were two beds, each holding a half-dead looking person who looked like they should have died of old age about a century ago. There was also a nasty smell but no fire, or hint of any other problem other than both the occupants would be dead soon. James shut the door and made a mental note to not live long enough to end up in a place like this.

On the other side of the explored area Fred pointed to a closed door and said, "Blood." James turned around and sure enough there was a fair amount of blood leading up to the door. Dave knocked on the door and said, "Fire Department, could you open the door please?"

Thankfully someone turned off the Fire Alarm and Dave pounded on the door and repeated himself. A young, blood spattered woman wearing a nurse type outfit opened the door and said hurriedly, "Watch yourself, Mr. Targowski has gone violently insane. He's got dementia but is acting like he's on PCP as well. I don't understand how he's out of his wheelchair. He tried to kill Andrea, bit her real good, I've bandaged her up but she needs to go to a hospital."

Donald, a 30 year old fireman looking into one of the other rooms choked out, "Found him. Good God. They're eating her?"

'Them' implied more than one, James and the others moved to the door and found two ancient, dead looking, pajama clad people standing above a third who was in bed. For a moment James' mind couldn't parse what he was looking at, then he realized that yes, the first two really were ignoring the firemen and pulling out and eating third's intestines.

Suddenly James was sorry he was holding the ax; It was useful for breaking down doors, not for dealing with two demented old timers. He let the ax fall to one side, this was going to get ugly and the last thing he needed was someone falling on it or something. James said forcefully but a hair desperately, "Move away from the person on the bed please, you're sick, you need help".

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In some alternative universe the old timers heard James and realized cannibalism wasn't a good thing. In this universe the one closest to him gave James a hideously empty stare, snarled, and charged him.

James let the old man close grabbed his hand, and tried to put him into a joint lock. The old man was surprisingly spry and twisted partly out of James' thick glove and bit him on the hand.

Off to one side James was heard Donald and the others wrestling the other lunatic to the ground. Someone hissed, others yelled, one or two cursed.

James used both hands to force through a one handed move and twisted the man's wrist down, around, and then forced him to the ground mostly through brute force. James yelled "Any Police! Need a pair of cuffs here!"

James' was glad Master Mike, his Hapkido instructor, hadn't seen this. He had all kinds of pithy Korean sayings. This particular situation would probably merit something about remaining calm; Fights were about calm, anger equals failure.

Two blue suited police handcuffed the two mentally ill nuts and everyone surveyed the damage. Over by the bed Jesus said pointlessly, "This one's dead." With half her internal organs outside her body cavity that wasn't a shock.

James checked his glove. The old man had even bitten him hard enough to leave a tooth embedded in the material but the uniform had held. James looked at the teeth marks on the glove and felt very good about modern fire technology. Insanity plus a willingness to bite? James had an uneasy idea that he knew what disease fit that description and rabies was nothing to fool around with.

Donald swore violently and held his hand up to his face, blood was dripping around it. Donald said, "Bastard bit me on the chin."

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James held the old man face down for a few minutes while the others did what needed to be done. Fred held down the other nut. Dave gave Donald first aid, James could hear Captain Ron calling it all in. He assumed the injured nurse was being bandaged up in the other room. Neither old man stopped hissing, moaning, or trying to get up.

Fred kidded Donald about how his wife and kids would take his injury, Donald took it better than James would if their situation was reversed. James knew Donald had young kids, a two year old and a four year old if memory served. Maybe dealing with young kids gave you the patience to deal with Fred?

Finally James said, "Fred, knock it off."

Fred replied, "I'm just trying to lift his spirits."

Captain Ron walked in before they could go any further and said, "OK. Dave, I need you to take Donald, Andrea Hettinger, that's the nurse, and these two old timers to the hospital for treatment. You'll have to take the big truck. Fred, Beer, you're going along to hold down these two. Jesus you're driving. I'm giving you Eric as well."

This was a very unusual request. Normally there'd be a dozen ambulances around. They worked off commission and were always trying to steal rides from each other.

Dave asked the obvious question, "Why can't we get an ambulance?"

Ron answered, "Dispatch tells me that there are AT LEAST a hundred requests for ambulances in ahead of us. If you go right now then you might get there before the hospital gets slammed, I want Donald to get all kinds of painful shots right now and I also want him to see a plastic surgeon."

Donald said sincerely, "Thanks."

Captain Ron was trying to put his men first, James approved but the answer raised a ton more questions.

Dave started to ask the next obvious question when the Captain added, "And no, I don't know what's going on. People are calling in sick all over the place, some are calling in dead too. Sounds like lots of the old and infirm picked today to get real sick."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

5:50 AM: James DeBeer

They'd gathered up the injured, tied up the two nuts, Mr. Jason Targowski, and Mr. Fred Sipowicz, James mentally reminded himself, it wouldn't do his career any good to call them 'nuts' on the official record, and driven off. Dave had given them face masks which took care of the whole 'biting' thing. With them bundled up James was reduced to just watching them, which was fine by him.

Whole thing was damn creepy. The two wouldn't stop moaning and they smelled awful. Also they were cold, several degrees colder than normal. At first James had thought 'rabies', now he was thinking, 'flesh eating virus'. The black administrator type had turned out to be 'Doctor Jackson' and he'd claimed it was some kind of 'electrolyte imbalance'. James hoped so, the cure for that was easy, but he privately wondered how good a doctor he could be if he made his living as a nursing home's administrator. Whatever it was, it was scary stuff, Donald already had a fever and Andrea was unconscious, although that later problem might be from blood loss.

Dave hung up his cell phone and said to James, "Beer. That was Mary. Rob has a really bad case of the flu, Janet, Mary, and the rest of the clan are taking him to the emergency room."

James frowned and said "When it rains it pours, right?" James ignored Dave's taking a personal call on duty, he'd have taken a call from Mary too. If she felt the need to call then it was important. James didn't bother asking why they'd all went, Janet would take Rob's problems hard and would need support, although James suspected she would have been able to function just fine if she'd been by herself with Ron in Florida. James didn't want to think ill of his sister but he also suspected she'd take her husband's death better than a long illness.

Dave said, "Yeah, wish I were there to take charge."

James said, "What would you do? They'll have enough people there to hold hands, who would thought of the mask if you weren't here?"

Fred put it, "I would have asked if anyone had any white hockey masks. One of them is named 'Jason' after all."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

5:50 AM: Captain 'Ron' Ronaldson 'The Springs' Rest Home

Captain Ron said, "What's the problem?"

Doctor Jackson replied, "There's two problems. First, we're missing people. We just did a head count. We're missing 2 patients and one staff."

Captain Ron said, "And my crew just took 2 patients and one staff to the hospital."

Jackson didn't like the implication that he couldn't add up numbers and replied somewhat heatedly, "Sir. Yesterday we had 82 patients, with me there should be five staff members on duty. Now we have 78 patients and three staff. With your crew that makes 80 and 4."

Captain Ron yielded the point and said, "OK, OK, I'll have everyone do a room by room."

One of the cops, Ron couldn't remember his name off hand, said, "They might have gone outside. We found a door open, there will be enough daylight soon to try to follow and I'll radio for a K-9 unit. What's the other problem?"

Doctor Jackson said somewhat worriedly, "Not counting Mr. Targowski or Mr. Sipowicz, we have a lot of patients showing signs of end stage. I don't know for sure how many because first I wanted a quick head count. I have Kate and Sandy checking to get exact numbers right now. We..."

Doctor Jackson swallowed hard, "We also have at least six dead patients, probably more. Seven if you count the one who was murdered." Not waiting for comment Jackson added, "We lose someone occasionally but this is way too many and none were expected. The only way this makes any sense is if... if they were poisoned."

Both the policeman and Captain Ron frowned, poison meant this was mass murder, but he was right, it explained a lot. Captain Ron brightened a moment later but then put his serious expression back on. Poison meant Donald's bite was just a bite, not rabies or anything more exotic.

The policeman ordered, "Tell me about your missing staff member."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:02 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

The emergency room was busy. Maybe absurdly busy considering it was 6 AM. Dozens of worried looking people were holding up other people who looked seriously sick. James had seen it more busy, but all those incidents were memorable to.

James kept Jason out of trouble while Fred took care of his namesake. Both older men were still determinedly, but futilely, trying to attack. James wondered how long they could keep it up and whether they'd be dead when they stopped.

Dave talked to the very harried front nurse. While he was still talking Jesus and Eric walked in after having parked the truck. Eric walked past the front desk while Jesus went to stand next to James.

Jesus asked, "What's Eric up to?"

James answered, "He's the Captain's trump card, that's why he sent him with us. Lots of Doctors don't treat us different than civilians. Don's injury might put him at the end of a growing line. Eric's wife works here, we're lucky this happened today and not three-ish months from now."

Jesus asked, "What happens in three, oh never mind."

Eric walked back with a late 20-ish, pretty, pregnant woman maybe six months along. She introduced herself as Wendy, looked under Don's bandage, and clucked. Then she led them back to a large area with many beds where Jason and Fred were strapped down. Then she led them upstairs. Mentally James complimented Captain Ron again. In the three minutes they'd been in the waiting room six more groups of people had shown up. James wondered if it was as packed where his sister and her husband were.

Wendy took them to an expensive looking upstairs waiting room and said, "You picked a good time to come. I'm going to catch Doctor Hatcher after he's done working out and have him see you. He's a plastic surgeon and has the best hands for this sort of thing."

Dave asked, "Should we just leave Don with you then?"

Wendy answered, "It will only be a few minutes and I'm sure he'll be able to leave with you. Also, I know Doctor Hatcher's weakness."

Eric instantly spoke up, "Large breasted women?", apparently Wendy had talked about him before.

Wendy answered, "OK, his other weakness. He loves to show off for the crowd."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:02 AM: Nurse Kate Gettlefinger 'The Springs' Rest Home

Kate went from room to room, checking to see how many of her charges had died or were injured. So far she'd counted eight dead, at least three times that many in the final stages of whatever was working on them. She assumed Sandy was getting similar results but she hadn't seen the other, in her opinion lazier, woman in several minutes. She'd complain to Doctor Jackson, but that was pointless. He had other things on his mind like worrying about prison.

Kate fully expected this would end up in the national news and not in a good way. Jackson was in charge, none of the possible causes for what was going on would reflect well on him. Retrospectively she'd been late, but hopefully not too late, in sending out her resume. Clearly she would be much better off working in a major hospital where things were supposed to be exciting.

Kate bent over her most recent patient. What was her name? S-something? She was supposed to know all of them but this was one of Andrea's. Obviously late stage... no. She was dead. Kate checked her off the chart, and realized her name was 'Smythe' when Mrs Smythe opened her eyes and sat up.

Kate jumped back startled and said, "Oh! You scared me there! Sorry, I thought... never mind what I thought."

Mrs Smythe got out of bed and staggered towards Kate.

Kate said, "Here, let me help you."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:04 AM: Doctor Samuel Jackson, Head Administrator at 'The Springs' Rest Home

'Doctor' Jackson knew he was in full damage control mode, and he was deeply concerned it wouldn’t help. Six dead, maybe many times that number, and he was the guy in charge. It wasn't a question of 'whether' someone would be getting life over this, it was a question of 'who'. The only good news was it was looking like criminal action and not incompetence.

It'd been bad enough he'd had to confess he wasn't a real Doctor. His PhD in administration gave him the legal right to call himself 'Doctor' and he'd always insisted on it.

Fortunately this was going as well as it could. Police officer Michael Hill had focused on the obvious suspect and was asking the right questions. Bozo Idiot Freedman was the conspicuously missing employee. Bozo's true name, address, and phone number were all available in the records room and Samuel had been eager to help Officer Hill get everything he needed. Thankfully the listed information was the correct information, looking up Bozo Idiot's number and address from his cell phone would have raised questions.

When he'd given his idiot cousin a job he’d known Bozo had a history of drug use. Supposedly that was done and he just needed a break. But two old men gibbering, attacking, and then eating someone? LSD? PCP? Both? Something new? Like some idiot dropped his stash in with whatever drug the two old men had in common?

The record room was a little packed, to open the right cabinet he had to close the door. Hill was looking on as he shuffled papers when from the corner of his eye Samuel saw movement. The door to the records room had a slit window which looked out into one of main hallways. The building was in the shape of a 'V' with his office, the front desk, and the records room at the base.

Samuel focused and saw three or four old people walk into a room. A different group walked out of a room and then entered another. The scene was a bit surreal, with the door closed sound didn’t get through the door and the old people staggered around a bit. The much shorter cop looked out the window and said, "Saying goodbye? Everyone always wants to see the dead bodies?"

Samuel said, "Yeah, but…” Samuel tried to think what was bothering him, *No walkers, no wheelchairs? It’s a really good morning for all of them? Weren’t any of them sick?*

Samuel’s thoughts were disrupted by the opening of the closet door next to the murder victim’s room. One of the nurses had said something about a massive messy pile in there and with everything else no one had searched under that. His cousin Bozo Idiot staggered out.

Samuel thought, *There is a God! Staggering, still stoned out of our mind are we? Perfect, no starting a massive man hunt and looking into his relatives. There’s still a slim chance I can keep my name out of this.*

Doctor Jackson pointed and said, “That’s him! Freedman! Looks like he’s high too.” *That’s it, underplay it. Don’t suggest he got his stash mixed up with the real drugs, let the cops think of it themselves. So what’s next? Dare I hope for resisting arrest?*

Officer Hill pushed shut the awkwardly placed cabinet and opened the door. Hand on gun, he ordered Jackson’s cousin to drop to the ground. Bozo staggered closer to the cop without paying attention to the command. Jackson couldn’t decide if he was delighted or worried. His cousin was going to get himself killed and he didn’t actually wish him dead.


In the background, a few rooms down, a fireman forced his way out of a room dragging another obviously injured fireman. An old timer grabbed both of them from behind and all three fell to the ground. Four more old people walked out of the room the firemen came out of and started eating both firemen. Blood spattered and his old patients with one foot in the grave feed on the poor firemen. The more injured of them, Captain Ron?, screamed as an old woman tore a meaty hunk off his leg with her teeth. Filled with horror, Samuel took a step back and said with wonder, “They’re insane. They’re all insane.”

The policeman decided he’d seen enough and shot Bozo twice in the chest. Freedman didn’t fall or even notice pieces of his chest being torn away and took another step. The policeman shot him four more times in the chest and then Freedman grabbed him and pulled him towards his waiting teeth. The policeman used his arm to just keep the lunatic’s teeth away from him, obviously planning to hold him off just for the moment it’d take for him to die. No matter what drugs Bozo was on, six to the chest meant he was a walking dead man.

Off to one side Jackson noticed two more of his insane patients stagger freshly out of their rooms and notice the fight. Filled with fear he took another step back and slammed the door shut. He took his keys out and dropped them, recovered, and locked the door. He didn’t get to watch the policeman die, he was busy pushing a file cabinet up against the door. When he saw they were pulling out the cop’s internal organs he turned away.

Pounding started on the door a few minutes later. It was a fire door for a room with unattractively painted cinder block walls. After two minutes of pounding he realized they’d never be able to break in and he started to relax. He was going to be ok, eventually help would come.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:35 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

James was getting a little restless. Wendy had disappeared to look for “Dr. Hatcher”, whoever that was, and James was wondering if they shouldn’t just leave Donald, maybe with Eric, and take the truck back. On the other hand if the Captain cared about James opinion he’d let him know what it was supposed to be. No word from dispatch or the Captain, it looked like he didn’t need them to safe guard dozens of old people from a non-existent fire.

Jesus looked out the window and said, “Hey Beer, take a look at this.” James looked out, whistled, and said, “So much for getting the truck out easily. Big league traffic jam out there, like right after a rock concert.”

Jesus asked, “So what’s the big deal about this Doc anyway?”

James replied, “The big deal is this is Don's face. Yeah, most of us can stitch if we have to, but if you want to see a bad stitch job…” James unrolled his right sleeve and said, “…take a look.” James’ right forearm, about two inches up from his elbow, had a year old seriously ugly scar. He’d cut it in the outback and then had to stitch it by himself not only one handed but left handed.

Doctor Hatcher, followed by Wendy, choose that moment to walk in. Hatcher wasn’t what James had been expecting at all. If he was an experienced specialist Doctor he should be at least in his late 30’s, but he looked young, like maybe James’ age. He was also better looking than James, maybe two inches taller, and wore a sweat suit covering a very non-medical “Black Adam” tee-shirt with a black Shazam lightning bolt. From the look of him he’d just finished pumping iron. The muscles on the Doc reminded James strongly of what he’d looked like at the peak of his failed bodybuilding days. The good Doctor also just oozed charisma. James disliked him on sight.

James thought, *Those are professional grade muscles. So much for the image of the overworked Doctor putting in 80 hours a week. OK, no need to be irrational James. So he’s better looking, stronger, smarter, and makes what, five times what I do? That’s no reason to feel insecure. Life is about choices. His job is demanding even if it does leave him with enough time to work out for 4 hours a day. After all, someone has to turn small breasted models and actresses into large breasted models and actresses.*


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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:40 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

Dr. Hatcher walked over to Don and looked at the wound expertly.

He said, "Hey there. Call me Adam. Sorry I'm late, you're actually the fourth bite I've worked on and I had to read what the CDC was putting out."

Eric asked with surprise, "Fourth ever? I thought you were some kind of hot shit Plastic Surgeon?"

Donald looked a little panicked but Dr. Hatcher replied easily with complete self assurance and the typical Doctor's causal arrogance, "Oh, I am, my Private Practice..." James could practically hear the dollar signs around those words, "...is booked back six months. I work here in an effort to give back to the community."

James mentally translated, *Or he needs access to the hospital surgical rooms when he's not leaping tall buildings in a single bound.*

Dr. Hatcher continued, "I meant that this was my fourth bite this morning."

Dave asked, "This morning? What does the CDC say about all this?"

Fully able to keep a conversation going while also giving a professional examination, Dr. Hatcher replied, "Wide spread flu outbreak. Seriously nailing the elderly and AIDS communities." As he talked, Hatcher put on a medical face mask to match the one that Wendy was already wearing and said, "Same as before." She rolled in a tray with paper covering what James assumed was a set of surgical tools, the Doctor put some stuff on his hands and then put surgical gloves on.

To James annoyance, Dr. "Call me Adam" Hatcher showed every sign of being as brilliant as he clearly thought he was. Hatcher rapidly and fluidly wrapped surgical thread around his own hand in moves that were clearly reflexive, then he reached inside Don's wound and made a stich... and then he pulled and the thread he'd wrapped around his own hand slid into place. Wendy stepped into cut at his command. Then he started the process again.

Dr. Hatcher continued to talk as he worked, "I talked to Dr. Meier just now, he's an AIDS specialist, and he told me that his phone is ringing off the hook. Geriatrics is also having problems I hear. You're all first responders so I guess I don't need to tell you what the flu can do."

Dave asked, "Is this a repeat of Spanish Flu?"

Dr. Hatcher replied, "So far, Thank God, no. The Spanish flu killed the young and healthy, the CDC says so far this one is going after the very old and people with damaged immune systems. I expect they'll have a rougher time than normal but..." Hatcher didn't continue, but James felt that he was obviously relieved to know he wasn't on the list of people who needed to worry.

Off to one side, Wendy sniffed.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:45 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

Dr. Hatcher continued to stitch Donald up like a master pianist giving a performance. When he was done with the internals he did the external wound and if anything his moves got even more precise and more fluid. James fingered his scar and kept his mouth shut.

Finally the Doc finished, and glanced around to check to see that everyone was properly awestruck at his brilliance.

Dave said, "Wow, I'm impressed. Seriously good work there." Jesus, Eric, and Fred all nodded. James mood darkened. He could tell they meant it, and worse, he agreed with them.

Adam Hatcher said with false modesty, "Ah shucks, it wasn't nothing. You know who also does seriously good needle work? Peeds. Obviously you want a good surgeon, preferably plastic, but a Peeds doc who has been sewing kids up for twenty or thirty years does good work."

Hatcher shifted back to 'Doctor' mode and said to Don, "OK, here's the thing. The human mouth is one of the filthiest things on the planet. Chances of infection are seriously high, I'm going to put you on antibiotics right now."

James said, "Rabies too Doc. I've seen rabies before, that was it."

Dr. Hatcher corrected a little condescendingly, "Two humans with rabies in a nursing home? I think in the last 10 years we've had less than a dozen cases over the entire state and every one of them was an animal bite. Trust me on this, dealing with animal bites is part of what I do, rabies is very slow and very rare."

Don warningly croaked out, "Doc", and then stopped talking. His wound had swollen a lot with it stitched shut. Don knocked sharply on a table and then pointed at James and then gave a thumbs up.

Dr. Hatcher looked at Don and said, "Rabies treatment is painful and involved. In my opinion you don't really need..."

Don sharply knocked on the table again then repeated his hand signal. Dave said, "We were there. Those guys didn't have the flu. Bite to the hand and Don'd have weeks to wait for tests, but this is a face bite."

Adam looked at Don, then at the rest of the firemen who were clearly in agreement, and not one to oppose his crowd of admirers he sighed and said, "Fine. I don't think this will help but it can't hurt. No, it's going to hurt a lot. But you're an adult. If you feel strongly I'll write you a prescription for that too."

Tension in the room instantly went away with the Doc yielding on that point. James reluctantly concluded that in addition to everything else the Doc was a stand up guy. He was willing to yield to what the people on the spot had seen and wasn't locked to what he 'knew' to be true.

Hatcher had just finished writing some incomprehensible Doctorise on a pad of paper when a Rent-a-cop poked his head in through the open doorway and said, "Good, there you are. Hey, we could really use your help, we're getting everyone together. There's a riot downstairs."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:45 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

With the Doc tagging along the six firemen left the office and found a group of four security guard types holding billy clubs outside the stairs. None of them seemed older than 'Twenties' and none of them had the 'In Charge' air that James had come to expect of seasoned police officers.

Dave asked, "What's going on?"

One of the guards said, "Riot. We're just the reinforcements. Security Central is one floor up. Call came in to gather everyone we could in two minutes and move in mass."

The guard answering the questions had a name tag claiming his name was "Brad". Obviously he was gathering up warm bodies to make his side look impressive. He also looked scared and was clearly making this up as he went along. James mentally tagged him as 'senior, but not used to command'. James glanced at Doctor 'Call me Adam' Hatcher and decided to put him in his place.

James said, "This could get rough Doc. You should sit it out and repair the damage afterward."

Hatcher replied evenly, "No, I should go. I'm a 3rd Dan black-belt in Taekwondo."

James grunted and managed to keep dismay off his face. 3rd Dan was two ranks higher than James himself, it also represented years more training, skill, and practice. The Doc was like a warped mirror showing James how his life could have been. Hatcher wasn't just stronger, better looking, and making more money, he was much better in a fight. Unless he was gay he probably got laid a lot more too. Wait, no, a gay man wouldn't have a public 'weakness' for 'large breasted women'.

Fred looked at the name tags and started to chuckle evilly. He said, "Wait, so let me see. You're Tom." He pointed to the second guard on the right. "Dick." He pointed to the guard on the far left. "And Harry?"

The three replied in turn, "Tomas."

"Call me Richard."

"Yeah. I think our super makes it a point to keep us together. You'll like him, he has the same sense of humor you do."

Brad said, "That's it, let's go."

Eric kissed his wife on her cheek and said, "Don't worry honey. We'll be fine. You stay here."

Brad took point and led the eleven men down the stairs.

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  • 2 weeks later...

James had never been in a riot but TV had led him to think it was a act on instinct because there's no law type situation. He assumed it'd be like a barroom brawl but on a larger scale. James walked through the doorway expecting to see a madhouse that needed to have order brought to it, instead it was like walking into hell.

There was a rhythm and sense to a bar fight, combatants in the center, non-combatants to the sides. This was total insanity serving no purpose. It seemed like everyone was trying to kill everyone else with their hands and teeth. Lots of people were screaming, bleeding, dying, and a few looked dead. Off to one side James could see three people clustered around a struggling fourth. At first glance he thought they were giving her first aid, then he realized to his shock and horror they were eating her alive. All eleven guards and firemen were dumbfounded and apparently invisible for a moment.

Brad recovered his wits first, he matched up to the trio of 'eaters', waved his baton threateningly at them, and said in an authoritative voice, "Stop That! Put your hands on your heads!". The effect was somewhat spoiled when Brad's voice cracked, it reminded James of a very small dog threatening a very large one.

The trio ignored him, James felt this was good since the delay gave everyone else time to get their act together. The firemen and other rent-a-cops clustered around Brad, then it was like a switch had been thrown. The victim stopped making even futile struggles, and all three lunatics looked up at Brad at the same time. The expression in their faces was exactly like the pair at the 'rest' home.

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This isn't a riot, the whole thing is medical James realized as the trio made their move. The leftmost of the trio was a heavyset middle-aged man, the two on the right were both old women, all looked deeply unhealthy.

Brad, to his credit, must have been expecting something like this. He side stepped and delivered a solid, straight arm thrust with his stick. He hit the heavy man chest high, apparently aiming right below the rib cage. James winced in sympathy and upped his evaluation of Brad's competence. From experience James knew a hit like that was a game ender. Brad hadn't pulled it, it'd paralyze the diaphragm and leave the victim on the ground gasping for breath.

Or that's what should have happened. Instead the man took the blow without flinching and tackled Brad. Everything happened at once. James, Dave, and Adam moved to help Brad. The remaining guards with Fred and Don fought with the two women and Jesus and Eric moved to help other people.

The heavyset man landed on top of Brad, then he ripped a large meaty bite of flesh out of Brad's throat. Blood sprayed everywhere. It was a mortal wound, even in a hospital they wouldn't be able to replace several inches of jugular in time to do anything. The heavy man chewed and then swallowed as Brad mewed in panic and pain. Dave tried to pull the man's head away from Brad, and Adam did a round house kick with all of his body weight behind it square on the man's cheek.

There was a loud crack as something in the man's head broke and both the man and Dave were thrown back a few feet and went sprawling. Once again the man wasn't even shaken up by the blow. James could hear multiple gun shots but all he could see was Dave's back was to the man as he was reaching towards him. Both James and Adam closed on the pair, James got there first.

The man grabbed Dave and pulled him back to his open mouth just as James interposed his arm. The man grabbed James' arm to bite down on that instead.

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The man bit down on James' bare skin and his teeth shattered. A hissing sword appeared in James other hand and he swung it up, splitting the man in two like he'd been standing in the path of a guillotine. The sword burned and looked like a solid black lightning bolt like the one from Adam's tee-shirt.

James was god of the room. Time slowed down. A fired bullet slowly inched it's way past his vision. There were twenty-six people in the room who were wrong. He could hear/feel/smell everyone's life. Their heartbeats and movements were like signs telling him what they were doing, but the 'wrong' people had no feel of life. They were dead, but they weren't.

James backtracked the bullet and noticed it'd come from one of the guards. The old woman the guard shot still fought even with multiple holes in her, and James could tell he was out of bullets. The woman's wounds were mortal but James realized she'd been dead to begin with.

James reached over, grabbed the old woman and effortlessly tossed her away. Like the bullet she moved through the air slowly. Tactically this was going to be easy. He'd clear the room of the twenty-six without a problem, then he'd move to the next room and then probably to the parking lot.

James mentally corrected himself, twenty-seven, impossibly another corpse opened his eyes and started to get up. Then James wondered how it was possible for him to do all these impossible things.

James sword went out and time resumed it's normal speed.

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The chaos of the room resumed.

The bullet instantly finished it's journey. The thrown woman flew across the room like a rocket and slammed against a brick wall with a sound like a car crash. For a moment she defied gravity and stuck against the wall, then she fell to the floor leaving a dent and red spot. James lost track of who was 'dead' and realized he'd lost his godhood and the situation wasn't salvageable.

James told himself without conviction he wasn't a murderer, the man and woman he'd killed had already been dead. Then to his horror he noticed the woman he'd thrown was dragging herself back to the fight with one arm. James turned to his crew and yelled, "They're not human! They can't be hurt! We have to fall back or they'll kill every one of us!"

Fred was bloody but had managed to wrestle the other woman to the ground. Eric and Jesus were already leading other people back to the stairs. One of the guards was holding his hands against his bloody leg and was hobbling back to the stairs with assistance from one of the others.

Another walking dead man saw the group of people and started shambling over to them. Off to one side, one of the 'corpses' lying around rolled over and looked around without anyone noticing.

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James felt great, stronger, more confident, and somehow more skilled. It was like he'd just finished years of physical conditioning and training. He wasn't a god any more, and he knew they were still going to have to retreat, but before they fled he was going to show Adam what a real man could do.

Over the commotion James yelled, "I'll cover you, everyone back up the stairs", then he strode over to the man-thing shambling towards them. James decided to use Adam's move. He turned and leaped up in the air intending to see if he could put his boot through the creatures head...

...and launched himself into the air like a missile. 4 feet later he crashed head first into the ceiling and 6 inches after that into the metal i-beam holding up the next floor. An injured and disoriented James fell heavily to the ground where the unnoticed dead woman lying the floor grabbed him and bit him on his hand.

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Someone James couldn't see shot the shambling man twice in the chest with no apparent effect. Adam used the same move again and again a kick to the face threw the creature back a few feet and knocked it over, and it struggled to climb to it's feet.

James' fiery sword reappeared in his trapped hand. He noted it was much smaller, dimmer, and weaker but plunged it through the roof of the woman's mouth anyway. Flesh sizzled and she died again.

Still hurting from the head shot he'd given himself, James struggled to his feet just before the creature he'd tried to kick earlier. James took a step back and his shorter blade disappeared again. James yelled, "Aw, come on!"

Holding the old woman face down in a wrestler's hold, Fred watched people retreat to the stairs and said, "A little help here."

His eyes wide with panic, Tomas almost yelled, "What can we do? She'll attack as soon as you let go and she's bullet proof."

Fred answered, "We'll tie her hands behind her, it will take a while for her to stand up. Take off your belt."

Three more of the creatures noticed the little crowd of people and started to shamble over.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

6:50 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

In just a few moments Fred and Tomas tied their creature's hands behind her. As expected she wasn't able to easily get to her feet when they let her go. Fred yelled, "James, Adam, Dave, you're the last ones, Let's Go!"

James hesitated and then withdrew. Although he wanted to test out his new 'buffness', another big screw up in front of four of these things could kill him. He was the last one through the door, Tomas shut and locked it the moment James stepped through.

Dave said, "James, anyone, can someone please tell me what's going on?"

James said, "No clue about me, but they're not alive."

Jesus said, "They're zombies."

A woman who had made it through the door with the men said, "The hell you say."

Harry said, "Still bleeding here."

Adam said, "Terror attack. Got to be."

Fred opened his mouth, no doubt to say something funny, and Dave yelled, "ENOUGH!"

Somewhat less forcefully Dave asked, "These stairs go down, is the door locked down there?"

Tomas nodded and said, "It should be."

Dave replied, "Fred, Tomas, go make sure it's locked. Everyone else, back up a level. Doc, stitch everyone up. Everyone who isn't hurt or stitching, call the elevators and brace the doors open."

Pounding started on the door they'd just come through.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

7:15 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

They'd disabled three of the four tower elevators without incident. The fourth had taken fifteen minutes and had shown up with two dead people. Or at least they thought it was two people, it could have been three. Dave had ordered them locked them in an examination room with a chair bracing the door shut. So far they hadn't reanimated.

So far no one had summoned the will or ego to question Dave's authority. There was a Doctor's lounge two levels up and everyone kind of sat around shell shocked. A few more early arriving doctors had been located in the tower and were off helping Adam deal with the injured.

James had a truly massive headache and had been practicing his 'knife' trick. He'd summoned and unsummoned it maybe twenty times, but between the headache and shear exhaustion he was pretty much totaled. James found a jacket to put over his face, lay down on a couch and fell asleep.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

9:10 am. Suburb of Fort Worth, Texas.

JoAnna & Jillian

JoAnna opened her eyes slowly. Had that been the phone? Where was... ah! Jill and Chris'. Chris had turned in early. Jill and Jo had stayed up late catching up. Jill might be up already, like Chris she was an early bird, while Jo was more of a night owl.

This meant that she could use the bathroom. Jo got up and gave the mirror a killer smile. The thrill of seeing that hadn't quite faded. She made a mental note to send her plastic surgeon a Christmas Card, Sondra had done great work. She'd been expensive, but Vegas was proof it was money well spent.

Jo brushed her teeth and decided that Jill's parents were insane. It'd been worth staying up to 1am talking with Jill about them. Chris was a nice person, she didn't deserve what her ex-husband had put her through and she certainly didn't deserve more abuse from her significant other's parents. She was good with Jill, after only two days Jo could tell that.

As far as Jo could tell the core issue bugging Jill's parents was grand-children. Both of them had recently had close brushes with the Grim Reaper, and in Jo's view that was warping their outlook. However knowing what the problem was didn't excuse their behavior. While she got dressed, Jo toyed with the idea of going to visit them while she was in Texas, they both liked her and considered her an almost-daughter. Regretfully she decided not to, wounds were still pretty fresh and pretty raw, and everyone still had time.

JoAnna walked out into the kitchen and found she was the last person up. She poured herself a bowl of cereal and got the milk out, nodded to Jill's new bandage and asked, "John?"

Jill said, "John. Got me again the little biter."

Chris walked up and said, "Change in plans. They just called off after-noon preschool. Jack Jr will be staying with us."

Jo asked, "What's happened?"

Chris answered, "Flu outbreak. It's all over the news. They're closing the schools to slow it down, and although they're not officially part of the system the preschool automatically copies the normal system for this kind of thing. They're too late though."

Jo asked, "What do you mean 'too late'?"

Chris answered, "I mean I can see the signs, our kids already have it."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

10:15 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

James woke up feeling refreshed and ready to face the world. Someone he didn't recognize noticed he was up and left the room. A moment later he came back with Dave. Dave looked like he'd aged 10 years in the past few hours.

Dave asked, "James. How are you?"

James replied, "Good I think. Not tired, a bit of a headache still but everything else seems functional. Seriously hungry though."

Dave said cautiously, "Hungry? Like for human flesh?"

James snorted and said, "No. Hungry like for food." James took a step and added, "But my clothes don't seem to fit very well now."

Dave seemed relieved that James seemed so normal, but the 'not fit' comment immediately put him back on edge. James clothes tore as he stretched and Dave took a step back. James took off his jacket and outer shirt, stripping to his tee-shirt.

James took a look at his chest and said, "Wow. I haven't been this ripped since my body builder days." James noticed that Dave's left hand was suspiciously out of view behind Dave's back. James said, "Let me guess. I've changed, the people down there have changed, and someone suggested I could be... what? An alien? Something else?"

Without moving his hand, Dave said evenly, "Something like that."

James said, "OK, fine. You're getting married to my sister Mary at Saint Mary's. Probably lots of people know that. I introduced the two of you, lots of people could guess that. But how many people know that you're screwing her every Friday in your apartment when you get off duty?"

Dave swallowed, looked a little outraged and embarrassed and said, "Hey! We're not..." Poker faced, James looked at Dave without acknowledging the protest. Dave collected himself and said, "You're just guessing."

James said, "You and I work the same shift, we get off at the same time, four months ago your habits changed and so did hers. She has been..."

Dave waved his hand at that, and interrupted, with, "They have vending machines around that corner."

James walked over and pulled out his wallet. He found it thick with cash, and quickly hid it from Dave. Dave still didn't know that the real party plan was to kidnap him tonight, not Wednesday.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

10:18 AM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

Three minutes later James walked back with a number of candy bars and other assorted food, and noticed Dave had been joined by Fred, Adam, Tomas, & Richard. Hmm... the martial arts Doctor and... everyone with a gun? Probably a good thing he hadn't gotten offended at Dave's comment and punched him.

James asked, "So, when is the army getting here?"

Tomas said, "What?"

James explained, "We got our buts kicked because we were out of our league, cops would be too. Hey, I saw a TV before I went down, and I was out for what, 3 hours? Hasn't the President or Governor declared this a disaster zone or terrorist incident and sent in the army yet?"

Dave answered shortly, "No."

Fred added, "There's nothing. Nothing about us, this hospital, or even this area. TV talks about a plague but calls it the flu. Phones are seriously overloaded. 911 goes to an answering machine or a busy signal. So with everything that's happening, and that's not happening... we were thinking..."

Richard finished the sentence after Fred trailed off, "Government Cover up."

Adam put in, "Zombies, real zombies, aren't created with magic or by some disease. In the real world zombies are created with drugs. So what we have is a zombie like outbreak, a government cover up, and a guy with unusual abilities. From what I saw, the sort of abilities that would be really useful for some sort of super solider."

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James frowned. There was a twisted sort of sense to that reasoning. Except...

James said, "I don't feel like 6 million dollars and I haven't been in some government medical lab undergoing experiments. I don't think even an alphabet agency would think they could quietly sacrifice a hunk of Dallas without anyone noticing. Never yell 'Cover up' when things aren't working, there's too much incompetence. Hurricane Katrina showed what should take hours might take days."

All the men frowned at that. Comparing their current situation to Hurricane Katrina wasn't comforting.

Adam recovered fist. He said, "Speaking of government labs and medical experiments, James, I'd like to give you a physical. Our resources are limited, but since you're not actively trying to kill me your the place to start."

James said, "Why you?"

Adam replied, "The other doctors and I drew straws and I won."

James said somewhat irrationally, "Other than the muscles I don't feel..."

Dave interrupted, "James. Your scars are missing, so are your freckles."

James looked for the huge messy scar on his right arm and saw smooth tanned flesh. He even had hair there. He felt his face, it felt the same but there was no mirror around. Missing 'scars', plural, didn't sound good. The scene from Michael Jackson's Thriller came to mind where that guy's arm fell off. Without thinking James felt between his legs. Well, that was still there, at least for now.

James gulped and said, "Sure doc. Be glad too."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:30 PM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

Three plus hours later, everyone gathered in the lounge to hear the results. Adam had lied about drawing straws, all the doctors in the tower had insisted on 'helping'.

Doctor Hudson looked to be mid 60-ish, he managed to sound both tired and excited. He said, "First, let me say we were rushed, don't have all the resources we'd like and this is scientifically disturbing. I'd love to have a real lab and look at this for months, not hours. There's a Nobel Prize or six here somewhere."

"By disturbing I mean James is breaking natural laws."

Hudson paused to let everyone absorb that then continued, "Fair warning, I'm going to skip a lot here and introduce a lot of unscientific conjecture. For the most part James' medical readings are consistent with a high level athlete. But we've found four sets of anomalies."

"First, he's in perfect health. By that I mean no scars, no sign of sun damage, no evidence that he's ever had a broken bone although he claims otherwise. He also has no cavities or sign of tooth decay although again he claims otherwise. So far I'd love to think this was some magician's trick."

Dave spoke up, "James broke a tooth about a year ago and he showed us his big scar a few hours ago." Jesus nodded.

Doctor Hudson smiled, almost condescendingly, and said, "In science if it's not repeatable it doesn't exist. The problem for science is the other three are repeatable. We couldn't draw any blood. Needles break, even against soft parts of the body like under the tongue. Surgical tools, well it's like trying to cut rock. This is our first scientific impossibility, rock hard skin wouldn't be flexible enough to be skin, much less sweat and grow hair."

Hudson added in a frustrated tone, "And that pales next to the impossibility of his strength. Human beings can't pick up 800 pounds without hurting themselves. Anything strong enough to couldn't pick it up without hurting the object."

Dave said, "Um... what?"

Adam explained, "A real life Superman couldn't pick up an iceberg. It'd break wherever he grabbed it. Comic book physics is wrong, except here it isn't. James can pick up a loaded table by one leg without breaking it. He ignores leverage too."

Adam concluded, "This isn't strength. It's telekinesis trying to look like strength. I'd guess the same thing applies to the 'iron-skin' problem. He has normal skin, he's just not letting us cut him."

Jesus asked, "So, how strong is he? And what's the record for telekinesis?"

Adam answered, "In the 50's there was a Russian woman who could move a few ounces. James is looking at a ton or two."

There was another pause while the room took that in.

Another Doctor whose name tag said 'Smith' said with the tired voice of someone repeating the losing side of an argument, "That woman was a fake. Telekinesis is an unscientific, unproven concept. You might as well call it magic, or say god is doing it."

Adam replied, "She might have been a fake, but whatever label you want to slap on it, it's there, and it's real."

Dave said, "That leaves the burning blade."

Doctor Hudson snorted, "Ah yes, the blade which is burns nothing, works underwater, has totally irrational heat properties, and is a completely impossible color. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, cameras say it exists and the x-ray machine says it doesn't."

"What can I say? It's not fire as we understand it. Pyrokinesis is as good a word as any. It burns anything it touches, but James can shave with it."

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:30 PM: Cecilia Güitrón, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital - West Tower

She'd had enough of this. Where had her lazy husband disappeared to? He knew she couldn't speak English worth a darn.

No way was she paying for an extra day's stay just because the hospital couldn't shuffle papers fast enough and her husband wasn't around to force the issue. She was supposed to leave four hours ago. She knew how the system worked. The hospital was taking advantage of her, that was clear enough. The new billing day started at noon, that was and hour and a half ago, and she knew their finances were stressed enough.

It was time to take matters into her own hands. If she left without telling anyone, then who was to say that she hadn't left at 9:30?

For some reason there weren't many nurses around, it was simple to sneak over to the stairwell. Americans were lazy, they always took the elevator. The door at the main level was locked. It sounded like there was pounding on the other side, which probably meant construction and confusion. So much the better.

Cecilia got out her key ring. She had a copy of the master key to the hotel she worked at, that opened pretty much anything.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:45 PM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital - North Tower

With the exceptions of Dave and Doctor Smith, the evaluation lifted spirits a hair. James wasn't an alien. Rules were being broken in their favor.

Adam asked, "Do you have anything to add to that James?"

James replied, "Yeah, three things. First, my stomach is telling me I need to eat every few hours. Second, the burning blade costs a lot, and lots more than strength. Lifting 800 lbs for 20 minutes didn't seem to tire me, but pulling out the blade four times sucked. Third, you're all acting like this rule breaking is good news."

Fred asked with a smirk, "What, it's not? You going all T800 on us?"

James replied, "Not me. I didn't mention this before because it'd sound crazy, but with everything else maybe you'll believe me. Downstairs, when everything happened, for a moment I could sense things, and I just knew stuff."

"Those crazy guys down there? They're not human, and they're not alive. That's why they didn't feel pain or notice when they got hurt. That woman you shot in the chest? She didn't die 20 minutes later, she was already dead. They're not drugged, even if that's how real world zombies are made. They're real zombies. I'm not the only one breaking the rules here."

The news didn't sit easily and a few people looked like they wanted to protest but didn't know how. If the rules were out the window then who knows what was happening?

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:45 PM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital - North Tower

Richard asked, "Zombies? Real live zombies? So how are they made?"

Fred said, "Seems to me they're already dead."

Doctor Smith said, "We don't know. But there's a consistency to all this, James is operating under rules, they're just different. The zombies will be the same."

Dave asked, "How does that help us?

Adam answered, "It means we'll try salt, fire, and/or a bullet in the head. Whatever works will keep working. And they can die, James killed two of them out there."

James said, "Right, they were both head shots so if we're lucky that's it. If the blade counts as magic then I don't see how that helps anyone else, and it's too expensive to use all the time."

Richard loudly interrupted, "No. Sorry. I shot one of them in the head and it didn't work."

James said, "Ouch. I have another idea anyway. Whatever made the magic come back, somewhere around here there should be a zombie master. If we find whoever is making these things, then maybe we can force him to let them die."

Wendy pointed out the window and screamed somewhat hysterically, "Guys! They're here!"

Everyone moved to look out the West windows, a few started to walk out onto the outdoor patio.

James asked, "Who is here? The Army? I don't see any planes."

Wendy yelled in panic, "No! Not the sky! Look across at the tower! The zombies! They're in the tower!"

Dave asked, "That's West right? What's in the West tower?"

Adam swallowed and said, "Several things, but that's Maternity."

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From this distance it was hard to make out details but there were perhaps a dozen people fighting. A woman held a package protectively away from them... James mentally ordered her to run but she just stood there. Someone wearing blue grabbed her and James hoped to see her forced to safety, instead the second person bit down on her shoulder. Someone else took the package and held it up, then put a tiny, angry fist into his mouth and bit down.

Adrenaline flowed, time slowed down, with superb reflexes James moved to the edge of the outdoor patio and... did nothing.

The North Tower didn't connect to the West. James looked down. It was 6 stories down to the street, three and a half to the roof of the connecting main complex. The 'easy' way to get to Maternity was go back down, fight through multiple zombie infested rooms, find the West Tower stairs, then fight up those 6 stories. It might as well be on the moon.

Dave said in half accusation, "I thought we told them to lock those doors."

Richard answered defensively, "We did. I did."

James said forcefully, "I have to get over there."

A red haired, seriously overweight, man in his late twenties said, "Use your blade."

James replied, "Huh?"

The red head said again, "Your blade. You're creating an object that doesn't exist. If you can create one, then you can create others. Make the blade, then form it into a bridge between here and there. Green Lantern does it all the time. Or better yet, do Thor. You're telekinetic. That means you can fly. Just pop the blade, then kinetically move it while still holding it."

James created the blade and everyone stood back and watched him. This was the point where the natural law breaking super hero saves the day. James waved the blade at the edge of the balcony.

Nothing happened. The figures fought on. Some of them went down and others clustered around them.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:50 PM: James DeBeer, Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital - North Tower

James tried to turn his blade into a hammer, then a spear. Wanting, needing, willing it all had no effect. In exasperation James threw the blade at the zombies. The blade left his hand then extinguished like a blown out candle.

The red haired man advised, "OK forget the blade. Reach down with your mind and push away from the Earth, or even just the building."

This sounded more promising. James mentally reached down and realized he couldn't sense anything, so he knelt down and put his hand on the floor. It felt solid. James pushed down and briefly did a one handed handstand before falling over.

After several minutes of James failing to learn how to fly Eric trotted up holding binoculars. Eric surveyed the West Tower and said, "James, you can stop. The fight is over. The ah..." Eric checked to see that his pregnant wife hadn't followed him out just yet and continued, "...the winners are eating the losers. It's pretty grim."

Several faces looked at James with disappointment. Mighty Casey had struck out. The normally unruffled James swore in frustration, "What good is this if I have to stand by and watch...!" James made a fist and only just stopped himself from hammering down at the guide rail. Long ago he'd learned that mindless destruction and rage was a loosing move.

Eric said, "There are still some survivors. I see people locking doors, moving furniture."

The overweight red haired man said, "Um... it looks like you're more Hercules from the Legendary Journeys than Thor from the comic books."

James gripped the rail and said, "Yeah. Looks like. That's a pity. Xena was much cooler." Deciding that a slightly off color joke might break the tension, James added, "Two things stood out. No, not those two things ;), I mean Xena had more sex and she also had leaping. I never understood why Herc had to ground pound while Lawless got to leap..."

James leap to show what Herc couldn't do and then yelled as he vanished up into the sky.

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Monday November 13th. Z-Day.

1:50 PM: James DeBeer, above the Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital

James zoomed up like a rocket. After he got over the shock of zooming up rocket-like, James realized he was like Xena after all. Then he realized Xena never went up a quarter mile up in the air.

James said to no one and everyone, "Wow! Would you look at the view! Seriously cool! I'm Thor after all! Hey God! If you can hear me, an instruction book would be SERIOUSLY nice!"

As expected, God didn't respond. The world a mile in the air was serene and peaceful, for a moment James forgot his troubles. James took a heroic 'superman' flying pose and tried to adjust his upward movement. It didn't work. He shrugged, this was going to take some practice. But he was slowing down and wasn't going anywhere near fast enough to reach orbit so all was good, except for the zombies and the dead babies. That thought brought it all back into perspective. Well... fine. There was still lots to do. Super-James might be an illusion, but lack of practice and lack of control aside, this was going to work.

More than a mile in the air James hit his peak and stopped moving up. He hung in the air for a timeless second then started falling down.

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