Read Apocalypse Empire (Book 1): Apocalypse Origins Online
Authors: R.A. Neely
"That's understandable," Greg replied.
"This is where I want you to be, Greg. I want you to
make sure my people make it out here if things go south. You strike me as a
good man, Greg. You staying to fight even though I gave you an out, that says a
lot about you. You've also been out there, surviving. We've been doing fine
here but we have no idea how things are out on the road. If something happens
to me, I want you to take over."
"What? I don't even know these people," Greg
protested. "Why would they listen to me?"
"Because I'll tell them to," Richard replied with
a smile. "I'll bring you around to meet everyone and we should still be
okay for a day or two. Plenty of time for them to get to know you."
"Aren't there other men more suitable?" Greg
asked. "I'm just getting here. If I pass over a bunch of people, that's
gotta cause some problems."
"It'll be fine," Richard said. "These people
need leadership. If I hadn't organized them, most would still be huddling in
their trailer homes. Right now, they don't care who leads so long as someone is
doing it. They just want to be safe."
Greg sighed as he thought. What did he know about leading a
group of people? It was one thing to take care of his family, but this? This
was way too much. He looked up as Richard placed a hand on his shoulder.
"You stayed behind fighting off the infected while your
people got themselves to safety. That's what a leader does. You've already got
the instincts for it."
"That was different," Greg protested. "They're
family. I did it without thinking."
"That's all this is," Richard replied.
"Family, just a little bit bigger, that's all.
"Just bigger, huh?" Greg asked.
Richard nodded. "Let's go for a walk. I'll introduce
you to some of the guys." Richard looked at the rest of the group,
"You guys are welcome to relax for a bit. Maybe lend a hand if you see
someone that needs help with something. Gio could use a hand if you can manage
not to annoy her. She's chased everyone else away so far. Says she works faster
The group dispersed and Richard took Greg on a more
personalized tour of the trailer park. This time around they stopped to speak
with the people they passed. Greg was pretty sure he wouldn't remember most of
them although a few stood out. There was Justin Oller. He spent most of his
time guarding the fence. He'd lost his only daughter the day of the outbreak
and was determined that wouldn't happen to anyone else.
There was also Ricardo. Turns out that he was Gio's son.
They found him kicking a ball off the wall of a trailer home and Greg decided
he should introduce him to Maddy and Junior when he had the chance. There
wasn't a whole lot for the kids to do with the power out so maybe they could
entertain each other. After Ricardo, it was a blur of names and faces. There
were about thirty men and women that Richard had organized into his little
The rest of the residents were next. They all seemed like
good people, if a bit afraid. It seemed like the only thing holding them
together was the force of Richard's will. Greg began to understand when Richard
had said they didn't really care who was in charge so long as someone was. Who
could blame them though? They were living in a strange situation. Who would
have ever imagined that you would have to hide from people carrying a deadly
They met as a big group for lunch around noon and Greg sat
down and noted that their table seemed to be getting a lot of stares.
"Something happen?" he asked.
Jackson shook his head, "No, it looks like we're celebrities
of a sort though."
"How'd that happen?"
Jackson shrugged, "A lot of them are impressed that
we've been on the road. They were asking a lot of questions when Richard took
you off for that meet and greet."
"How'd that go anyway?" Carol asked.
"Pretty good I guess," Greg replied. "Can't
say that I'll remember anyone's name just yet but it went well."
"That's good," Laura said. "Everyone is
looking forward to getting out of here but there will have to be some changes
with this many people."
James chuckled. "Already organizing things, huh?"
"Somebody has to," Laura replied.
"What's the problem?" Greg asked.
"Well, Richard's done a great job of keeping everyone
safe here but I noticed that not everyone is contributing. There's quite a few
people just sitting around."
"What do you think we should do?" Greg asked.
Laura shrugged, "I don't know, but I think everyone
should be doing something. We can't live the way we used to. Richard said we're
gonna be attacked soon," she said in a low voice. "What happens then?
It doesn't seem right that just a few people fight while everyone else
"Isn't that what we're used to doing though?"
Carol asked. "If you get in trouble, you call the police."
"Don't think that model is gonna work right now,"
James said. "Think about the other night. We survived because everyone
lent a hand. When we left Ashton, Greg and I cleared the way while you guys
drove. Everyone was involved."
Greg nodded. "That makes sense. Richard thinks the
attack is gonna go down any day now though. Don't know if we can change
anything by then."
Laura shrugged, "I'm thinking long term I guess so
maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. We have to survive whatever that Dawn woman
throws at us."
Greg shook his head. "You're right, if we're gonna do
this we have to make it work. And well I guess we're gonna do this. Stick
around I mean."
"That's fine," Laura said, "it's great even.
I think we'll be safer in a bigger group. We just have to organize some things
"You're right," Greg replied, "I'll bring it
up with Richard next time I talk to him."
After lunch, Greg found Richard and told him some of the
things they were talking about. "Those are all great ideas," Richard
said when he was finished. "I knew you were the right man for the job. I
didn't think of any of those things. Just been focused on getting enough food
and keeping the infected out."
Greg shrugged. "I think you did a fantastic job. Just,
we'll have to organize a little different on the road."
Richard nodded, "You're absolutely right. I knew there
was something about you."
Greg shrugged. "I still feel a little weird about the
whole thing but I'm willing to give it a shot. I don't want to see any of these
Richard nodded. "Good man. We can go around after
dinner tonight and introduce the changes. Better to do it now so people have an
idea of how things are gonna be."
"Sounds good," Greg said with a nod.
Greg spend the rest of the day interacting with the
residents. He kept some of the guards company as they stood watch and tried to
get a sense of who they were. After that he found himself in a trailer that was
being used as a day for some of the younger children. On his way out, he saw
Carol smiling at him and decided he would stay away from there so she wouldn't
get any ideas. He mingled here and there, introducing himself to faces he
hadn't seen yet and eventually found a quiet corner where he could be by
himself for a while. This whole thing was really overwhelming. He didn't realm
feel equipped to lead anyone let alone all of these people that would be
depending on him. Who would've thought he'd be in this position? He'd
spent the last week running from place to place just trying to stay alive. He
was supposed to do that for a whole group now? Laura was right, there would
definitely have to be some changes. He shuddered just thinking of how they
would provide food for so many people. Richard said they had a good amount
stored up, but what happened if that ran out? He'd need to find out exactly how
much food they had and long it would last. He could probably put Laura in
charge of that. She was good at organizing things like that.
They'd probably have to send out scouts or something to look
for food every day. What about hunting? The canned stuff lying around would
only last for so long? He'd need to ask Richard if anyone knew how to hunt.
Hopefully those two things would be enough to keep the group fed. He shook his
head. He needed to talk to the rest of the group. This was too much to deal
with on his own. He'd probably miss something important. Isn't that what
leaders did though? Surround yourself with people who actually knew what they
were doing? Even the president had a cabinet right? Greg stood and started to
look for the rest of the group. He'd need their advice if they were going to be
making changes that were going to affect all of these people.
Days passed and Richard began involving Greg in the daily
running of the trailer park. They would rise early and determine the guard
rotation for the day. While the infected mostly came out at night, there were
other threats they had to guard against. Even though Dawn hadn't attacked,
Richard insisted that she remained a threat. There were also bandits to be on
the lookout for. They hadn't had any problems lately but Richard believed it
was the presence on the men on duty that kept them at bay. The next task was to
determine the team that would go scavenging. They were doing well food wise but
Richard wanted to have a constant flow of supplies if only because they were
competing with Dawn's group. There were a number of other tasks that Richard
handled and Greg quickly realized that he would need to delegate. Trying to
handle everything on his own would quickly grow tiresome.
A week passed and Greg began to feel more comfortable with
his future role here. Richard began letting him make the day to day decisions
so that he could focus on security. The residents were also growing comfortable
with him and frequently nodded or greeted him by name as he passed. A few days
into the second week Richard pulled Greg aside.
"What do you think so far?" Richard asked.
"It's going pretty well," Greg replied.
"We're all starting to fit in here."
"Laura's been a great help keeping the meals
Greg chuckled, "Yeah, she's always been queen of the
"What about the others? Haven't had the chance to talk
to them really."
"Carol's been helping me organize some ideas I have and
helping Laura otherwise. James and Jackson have been taking shifts on guard
"That's great," Richard replied, "you guys
have been a huge help." He chuckled, "I'm glad Dawn sent you this
Greg smiled, "It's been over a week. Do you still think
she's gonna make a move?"
Richard nodded, "I know it's been quiet but I just
don't trust her."
"She's devious and has everyone over there
fooled." Richard shook his head remembering, "You wouldn't expect it
but she wasn't always like that. She was the village treasurer for years but
something changed when the infected showed up."
"She lose someone?" Greg asked. He knew that
trauma could affect people in different ways.
Richard shrugged, "So what if she did? Who hasn't lost
someone? Hell, we lost nearly everyone in this town. Anyone that wasn't here
that day is gone."
Greg nodded, "Fair enough."
"I don't know what happened to her. Some of my men were
hitting the grocery store when she shows up with several of her own guys, all
armed. Claimed that she was the legitimate authority in town and my guys had no
right to be stealing supplies from the town."
"What happened then?"
"Same thing happened with the next group I sent out.
Only this time one didn't make it back. We haven't figured out if Dawn had
given the order or if one of her guys was just trigger happy. I started sending
everyone out armed after that."
"I think it's just a matter of time," Richard
"That's why Gio's work is so important."
Richard nodded. "I just can't bring myself to fight
people that used to be my friends. Maybe that makes me weak, a bad leader but I
can't do it."
Greg shook his head as he thought of the decisions he would
be willing to make. "I'd say that makes you human."
Richard smiled, "Thanks for that."
"How is Gio coming along?" Greg asked.
"Good. I think we've got enough vehicles right now if
we had to leave in a hurry."
"Maybe we should start loading now, just in case."
"That's a good idea. Think we can put Laura on
"Yeah, she's the best person for the job."
More time passed and Greg found it easier and easier to fit
in. By the time the third week dawned, Greg felt as if they had been in the
park for years. Most of the residents greeted him by name as he passed and he
felt that taking over the leadership role would work out pretty well. Part of
the way he had done this was to help out wherever he could and he directed the
others to do the same. This served two purposes in his mind. The first was
that there was a lot to do if they were going to get out of here. Gio still had
some work to do on the vehicles and she needed help despite her protestations
that people just slowed her down. The second was that it gave the group a
chance to get to know everyone. If they were gonna be leading the group, Greg
felt he should try to establish a relationship with as many people as he could.
Greg began taking different members of the group with him on
his rounds as he began to call it. He felt that this was a good way of further
introducing the other members so that the people would listen to all of them as
a whole. Greg wasn't going to be able to do this alone and he'd need everyone's
help. They also began to make a few changes around the trailer park. Jackson
had suggested that all the guards should start wearing protective gear. He had
noticed that the guards were simply wearing whatever they had on hand, jeans
and a t-shirt for example. If a breach happened, the guards should have some
sort of protection so they could fight effectively.
Greg had thought this a great idea and had requested that
someone get leather jackets or something of the like the next time they made a
supply run. He also requested gloves and few other items that Jackson had
requested. This was received well by the guards. It wasn't much but they liked
the idea of having additional protection.
Laura had also made some progress implementing her ideas.
One of the first things she did was assign everyone into a work group. Everyone
had a task of some sort be it helping prepare food or watching the children.
There was some resistance at first but most quickly bowed under the weight of
her will. Peer pressure also helped. Most people took their tasks with a degree
of enthusiasm. Keeping busy was a great way to keep their minds off the fact
that their world had fallen apart. No one wanted to be thought of as someone
that didn't contribute to the well-being of the group.
While Laura organized the people, Carol took to organizing
their trip for when they eventually left. Greg had shared with the group his
ideas on what they might need on the road and Carol set to making it happen.
She determined a rendezvous point for everyone to evacuate to if they had
to leave in a hurry and also determined who would make ideal scouts when they
were on the road. The last thing she did, was organize an evacuation plan. They
would leave in three waves. People were assigned to a certain wave and each
wave had several guards as well. She didn't know if matters would play out the
way they wanted, but the organization seemed to give everyone peace of mind.
Greg and James started teaching a crash course in Krav maga.
They were expecting anyone to achieve proficiency on such short notice
but they might learn something that could save their life. They taught the
guards in the evening and taught a second course in the evening when everyone
was done with their chores. Not everyone took it seriously but they welcomed
the activity. The electricity was gone after all.
At the end of the first week there was a definite change in
the trailer park. When they'd first arrived, Greg had sensed a desperation of
sorts. People were scared and just doing what they could to survive. With the
changes his group had implemented, people seemed a little less scared. Having a
concrete plan in place seemed to go a long way in easing their fears.
They were sitting down to dinner at the end of the week
discussing their progress when Jackson asked Richard a question.
"It's been three weeks. Do you still think Dawn is
going to come after us?"
Richard nodded. "It's just a matter of time. We've been
making more supply runs the last few days, she isn't gonna accept the
competition for resources. You guys deciding to stay probably messed up her
plan. Too many people know that you're still here. But I know she's still
Greg shrugged. "I'm not complaining. The more time we
have to prepare the better."
The group made small talk after that and went their
separate ways for the night. Greg and Richard decided to do a perimeter check
and see how the guards were doing.
"I'm glad you're here," Richard said as they
walked. "You're definitely the right man for the job."
Greg chuckled. "I don't know about all that. Just
trying to keep everyone safe."
"Exactly. You're not in it for the glory. You genuinely
want to keep everyone safe. I've seen you making the rounds, talking to people.
I think this is gonna work out great. I'll handle security while you deal with
everything else," he finished with a chuckle.
Greg laughed. "Now the truth comes out. You just wanted
someone else to do all the work."
Richard laughed. "This will be good. We'll get out of
here and find someplace up north, away from the Dawns of the world."
They reached one of the trailer homes set against the fence
and Richard called out in greeting. "Ryan, how's it going tonight?" Richard
frowned when he didn't hear a response. "Ryan?"
Greg climbed the ladder on the trailer home and made his way
onto the roof. "He's been shot," he said quietly, "crossbow or
Richard cursed. "She's attacking tonight. Oh no."
"The fence down here has been cut. This is gonna be
Greg climbed back down and joined him at the fence. Sure
enough, there was a man size hole cut in the fence. Greg looked up. The sun was
setting. The infected would be out in force soon.
"Can we move this trailer?" he asked. "That
should cover the hole until we can get it fixed."
"No time," Richard said nodding beyond the fence.
Greg looked and saw half a dozen infected slowly making
their way towards them.
"They've already seen us," Richard said. "Their
cautious for the moment. We've been shooting any that get near the fence. I
need to you run and get some help, Greg. I'll hold them here for as long as I
Greg shook his head. "I'll stay with you. We can take
six between the two of us. Plus, they can only come one at a time."
"And if we fail? That'll be a whole bunch of infected
loose in the park and no one would have any idea what's coming. Plus, the
fighting will probably draw more infected."
Greg nodded. He didn't like it but Richard was right.
"Alright. I'll go get help and make my way back."
"No," Richard said. "Don't come back. We
leave now. You get everyone loaded and get the hell out of here."
"I'm not leaving you to die."
"Yes you are. That's why I signed you on, remember? You
try to stay and we might all die. Get them outta here!"
Greg took off sprinting and Richard unslung the rifle from
his back. He'd probably die in the next few minutes but he would not go
quietly. He'd take as many of these demons to hell with him before he died.
One of the infected came in range and Richard squeezed off a
shot that took it in the forehead. He smiled grimly as hit the ground. The
other infected jumped back a bit but started making their way forward again
when there weren't any more shots. Normally, there'd be at least three guys
firing into a group like this but Dawn had killed their guard before he could
raise the alarm. Richard let off another shot, striking one in the chest and
knocking it to the ground. He couldn't fire indiscriminately, he needed to
make every shot count.
A howl in the distance told him other infected had heard the
noise and were on the way. He fired another shot and dropped another infected.
Three down but more were on the way. He took his shots carefully and managed to
take down the remaining infected before they could reach the fence. He took no
victory in it though. Already, he could see more infected coming his way.
Greg sprinted until he saw one of the guard and came
to a stop. "We're under attack! Get to the west fence. Richard is over
The guard unstrapped his rifle and ran in the direction Greg
had indicated. Two more guards nearby heard the exchange and headed in that
direction as well. Greg quickly made his way to Gio and saw her legs sticking
out from underneath a car.
"Yeah?" she asked as she slid from underneath the
"We're under attack. We have to leave now."
"What's going on?"
"Someone cut the west fence. Infected are attacking
Gio shook her head. "But I'm not done. We don't have
enough vehicles for everyone."
"We'll have to make do. We need to leave now and save
as many as we can."
Gio nodded. "Alright, let me get my tools
"Greg! Greg!" someone yelled. Greg turned and saw
one of the residents running towards him. "The north gate! There's a bunch
of infected over there."
"Alright, I'm on my way. I need you to find some others
and help Gio get packed up. Then spread the word. We're getting out of here.
Just like we practiced mind you. No panic."
The man nodded and headed off to do as he was told. Greg
took off running again and headed towards the north gate. Along the way he ran
into James and Laura. "James," he called as he came to a stop.
"I need you at the north gate, there's a breach. Laura, get the kids then
help everyone get loaded up." Laura nodded and took off in the direction
of the trailer they had been staying in.
Greg sighed as he took off again, James right on his heels.
They should have had a better communication system, walkies or some such. How
many people would be lost while they tried to spread the word? Greg reached the
north fence and cursed when he saw what was happening. There was an even larger
hole here and there were a dozen infected inside the park with more on the way.
There were half a dozen guards fighting off the infected but a few were already
on the ground unmoving. Greg drew his pistol and machete and launched himself
at the infected, trusting James to watch his back.
He couldn't fire his pistol indiscriminately because he
didn't want to hit one of his people by mistake. As he reached the melee, he
saw an infected about to bite into the arm of one of his people. A well placed
kick to its side sent it sprawling and Greg quickly followed up with a strike
to its throat. Turning, he saw another infected coming towards him. Greg ducked
under its swipe and placed his pistol to its stomach. Three shots sent it
towards the ground screaming in pain. Greg saw an infected with its back turned
and stabbed it through the back. He kicked it away to free his machete and
looked around for another target.
James was laying about with his asp and the rest of the men
looked to be holding their own now. Greg looked past the fence and saw that
more infected were nearly on them. He was about to lend a hand to finish off
the remaining infected when her heard someone running towards him from behind.
He turned and saw Lisa. If he recalled correctly, she was one of the women that
watched the kids. "Greg! There's infected over by the kids. We need
"James, hold things down here. I'm going to help the
"On it," James replied as he finished off the last
infected with a solid strike to the head.
Greg followed the woman to the trailer and saw four children
cornered against the wall of a trailer home by several infected. Carol stood in
front of them and there were a number of infected at her feet. The infected
were hanging back for the moment, likely wary of Carol's gun but that wouldn't
last for long. There must be another breach around here he thought. He turned to
the woman. "Find a guard and have them find that breach. They're coming in
from somewhere." At her nod he launched himself at the infected. This
would be close quarters, he wouldn't risk the pistol with the kids and Carol so
He struck down the first infected from behind and had
already put down the second before they realized something was wrong. The two
remaining infected turned towards him and attacked. He kicked the first
infected in the chest and sent in to the ground and ducked under the swipe of
the second infected. He stepped back to give himself some space and smiled
grimly when he heard a gunshot close by. Glancing over, he saw that Carol had
finished off the infected he had kicked to the ground. Turning back to the one
in front of him he blocked a swipe with the machete and countered with a punch
to its throat. The infected grabbed its throat as it tried to breathed and Greg
finished it off with a two handed blow to its head.
"You alright?" he asked as he pried the machete
from the infected's skull. He took another moment to clean it on the infected's
clothing before sheathing it.
Carol nodded. "We're fine now that you're here. What's
going on? Where did all these infected come from?"
"Someone cut holes in the fence. They took out some of
the guards before they could raise an alarm."
"Oh no," Carol replied.
Greg nodded. "We're getting out of here. Let's get you
guys over to Gio. I'm not letting you walk around with an escort."
Carol nodded. She put the safety on the gun and tucked it
into her waistband. "Come on guys. It's time to go. Just like we
practiced." The kids nodded tear stained faces and followed as they lead
the way to the vehicles.
Richard fired his last round and smiled grimly. He'd lost
count of how many infected he'd killed but it would be over soon. He was out of
bullets but he could hold out awhile longer. They could only come at him one at
time through the hole in the gate. He stepped over the bodies of infected and
stood directly in front of the hold. He hoped Greg was doing his part. Gunfire
from other parts of the camp told him this wasn't the only breach but he didn't
dare leave this spot. The more infected that were running loose in the park
meant the more people that would die. An infected approached the hole and
Richard stepped forward and thrust quickly into its throat. He smiled as it
fell to the ground holding its throat. Now, he only had to do this about twenty
more times to take care of this next wave.
Jackson kicked the infected in the knee and it fell to the
ground. He quickly stepped away and Shirley stepped forward and gave it two
solid blows to the head with baseball bat she'd found. Jackson turned to face
the next infected and blocked its swipe, a thrust to its throat sent it
crashing to the ground. Jackson hoped some help would show up soon. He and
Shirley were holding their own but it would only take one slip up for it to all
be over. The people they were guarding weren't any help either. He glanced at
the half a dozen people cowering against the side of a trailer home. He shook
his head in disgust. This was literally life and death and they couldn't be
bothered to defend themselves? Shirley knocked an infected to the ground and he
quickly finished it off. She was breathing heavily and probably wouldn't be able
to do this for much longer.