Dark Winter – Part 14

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Once for the time you never came
One more time and one for history
Scream hallelujah, scream hallelujah
There’s just no easy way out
- Fit for Rivals, “Hallelujah”

Poveglia was the start of everything.

Katie sat on her cot with the files open in her lap. Her dad’s safe was right where he’d always kept it, hidden behind the freezer storage. The numbers were the same and it opened on the first try. Inside, she’d found hundreds of folders full of papers. She expected to find his financial records and house sale stuff along with what he’d told her to search for. She’d expected to spend hours rooting around, sifting through the data of their past. Maybe she’d find old photos too, ticket stubs when he’d taken her to see Finch in concert.

There was nothing in these files that connected him to her in any way. The entire safe was full of personnel and identity records, transfers from one unrecognizable series of numbers to another. Classified locations, she thought as she’d set them aside. She remembered her dad telling her about scrambled GPS coordinates he’d used as a Ranger.

“The normal person can’t remember more than seven digits easily,” he’d said once when they were camping high in the mountains. She’d been fifteen and complaining about math homework and how numbers were annoying and hard to remember. In the crackling firelight he’d laughed and held up all ten fingers. “So we’d just scramble random numbers, ten of them, for locations. Easiest encryption in the world.” Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 13

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“Stand amongst the ashes of a trillion dead souls and ask the ghosts if honor matters.” – Javik, Mass Effect 3

The helicopter flew low over snow-covered trees. The wake of disturbed air created a white mist behind them, flaring outward in concentric circles before falling to the earth again. The wind was biting cold and the heavy thumping of the rotor blades made the chill air blow strong into uncovered faces.

Six men sat within, the pilot and co-pilot were up front while four others crouched in the loading area. Three were all dressed the same, with black BDUs, bulletproof vests and tactical slings. M4s were stowed between their legs. Unlike the AR-15, the M4s civilian-approved cousin, these guns were military issued and had fully automatic fire. Only these men weren’t military. Not anymore.

The patches on their shoulders read KSF: Kurama Security Forces. Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 12

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But all those pretty pictures they just start to fade away
And everything that I believed is getting hard to find
- Goo Goo Dolls, “Caught in the Storm”

Katie was eating cold ravioli from a can when her dad emerged from the radio room. His expression was controlled, but something about his stance told Katie that he was preparing for something mentally. Lindsay saw it too when she looked up from the book she was reading, a dog-eared SciFi paperback from the supply room called Icarus. Licking her lips and dropping her spoon into the half-finished can, Katie regarded him carefully.

“What’s going on, dad?”

He didn’t answer right away but walked to the gun closet and retrieved a gun that Katie rarely saw him use. The SCAR 17 was distinctively different looking than their AR-15s and chambered a bigger round. Katie struggled to remember its exact size, but came up with a blank. She knew they were illegal for civilians to have though. “Stopping power” her dad called it. But if their normal .22LR rounds were good enough for the Infected then… Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 11

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They see you as small and helpless
They see you as just a child
Surprise when they find out that a warrior will soon run wild
- Jeff Williams, “This Will Be the Day”

Katie stared at her dad, unable to process what he just told her. He can stop this? That guy can stop all this? She opened and closed her mouth half a dozen times before she managed to speak.

“How?”

“Katie, it’s a very long story. What’s important is that we ensure his safety.”

Her dad exhaled heavily, his breath misting in the chill air. Katie felt strange, like her whole world wasn’t quite in focus. He knew this the whole time? He knew about the virus too. What else did he know that he wasn’t telling her?

His gaze turned from her, following the direction of the truck. For long moments, silence stretched between them. Katie wanted to ask him why he didn’t tell her this, why he’d keep such a secret from her? Why he kept any secrets from her at all. Didn’t he trust her? Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 10

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Song for the reluctant heroes
Oh Give me your strength
Our life is so short
Song for the reluctant heroes
I wanna be brave like you
- Attack on Titan, “Reluctant Heroes”

Katie was four hours north of the bunker when she spotted the tracks. They curved deep fissures through the snow and hadn’t filled in yet. Fresh tracks then.

The sun was reaching its zenith but the temperature was still cold enough to burn her lungs. She waited for several minutes, listening intently for any sound that might indicate who made the tracks. The urge to move was strong. By her estimation, her dad’s cache should be roughly five hours north of the bunker by foot. She was so close and she had to know if he was alive.

Licking her chapped lips, she dug out a protein bar and ate it quickly before pressing on. Her energy was flagging and slogging through freshly fallen snow was not easy work. Her direction took her perpendicular to the tracks and when she crossed them, she paused to look at the impressions. They were big and heavy, judging by the displacement and depth. Large tires with thick tread. She didn’t recognize the pattern but they were widely spaced, so a truck of some sort.

Was her dad picked up by someone? Did he find other survivors? If he did, why didn’t he contact her by now? There was no sense stopping here in any case, so she hurried on, pulling out her map to double check the location of the cache. Then, with a quick look at her compass, she reoriented herself and headed over the hill and into a thick batch of brier.

“Great, just gr—” Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 9

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I feel wrong
I’m so human and flawed
I’ll break down even though I’m still strong
And time will make fools of us all
Build us up and then laughs when we fall
You pull me through
When I’m alone in the dark and the fear is my truth
- The Goo Goo Dolls, “All That You Are”

“You can’t go back out there!”

Lindsay grabbed Katie’s arm as she pulled out a box of ammunition from the supply closet. Shaking it off, Katie pried the metal box open and knelt to begin reloading her empty magazines. Have to go. Have to go. Taking too long. Hurry, Katie! She fumbled with a .22LR round and instead of snapping it into place, it slipped out of her hand and skittered across the floor to roll beneath the dresser. Her vision swam as she moved to reach for it and her eyes felt so heavy she could hardly keep them open.

“Get me a 5 Hour Energy,” she said, reaching her hand beneath the dresser to feel for the round. She could have just gotten another one from the box but wasting ammunition felt wrong. She had to get this one. It was very important to her for some reason. Continue reading

Dark Winter – Part 8

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And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

The dead were coming for her.

Katie stood where the snowmobile should have been, but in its place was only rutted snow and torn up shards of ice and grass. Where was it? Who might have taken it and how? She stood there, rooted to the spot. The impossibility of it, the unfairness of it, made her hesitate. That hesitation nearly cost Katie her life.

Something cold grabbed her from behind. Stiff fingers clutched at her jacket, dragging her backwards while another clutched at her arm. A hiss slid across her ear, the infected’s breath a fetid wind of blood and decay. It leaned towards her, teeth snapping for her flesh. If she didn’t move, if she didn’t fight, she’d die. Right here in the dark and the cold.

Fight, Katie! Fight! She could almost hear her father say the words, just like he’d said them so many years ago. Continue reading