Read The Undead World (Book 5): The Apocalypse Renegades Online

Authors: Peter Meredith

Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse

The Undead World (Book 5): The Apocalypse Renegades

BOOK: The Undead World (Book 5): The Apocalypse Renegades
9.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
The Apocalypse Renegades
The Undead World Novel 5
By Peter Meredith

Copyright 2015

Kindle Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Fictional works by Peter Meredith:

A Perfect America

The Sacrificial Daughter

The Apocalypse Crusade War of the Undead Day One

The Horror of the Shade Trilogy of the Void 1

An Illusion of Hell Trilogy of the Void 2

Hell Blade Trilogy of the Void 3

The Punished


The Feylands: A Hidden Lands Novel

The Sun King: A Hidden Lands Novel

The Sun Queen: A Hidden Lands Novel

The Apocalypse: The Undead World Novel 1

The Apocalypse Survivors: The Undead World Novel 2

The Apocalypse Outcasts: The Undead World Novel 3

The Apocalypse Fugitives: The Undead World Novel 4

The Apocalypse Renegades: The Undead World Novel 5

The Haunting At Red Feathers

Chapter 1
The River King

High up on the bluff, the River King stood with the tips of his black boots hanging over the edge. Those boots were getting ratty. Yes, they were comfortably sprung in all the right places, but the heels were going soft and rundown, the toes were scuffed brown. They were ratty, just like his soul. It too was feeling dirty and torn. He felt the seams of it about to give out.

Sixty feet below him the black waters of the Mississippi slid silently by, uncaring of his turmoil. Uncaring of his rage. Uncaring that there was, in all likelihood, the beginnings of a revolt forming at the base behind him.

Whether that revolt was successful, all depended on the next few hours. Who would be quicker? Who would be willing to go the lowest? Who was willing to let every moral factor drop into the gutter for the sake of power?

For the last eight months, the River King had demonstrated that he didn’t have a moral bone in his body. Now, he had a glaring weakness: his daughter, Sadie.

“Do the right thing,” Captain Grey urged in a whisper so low it wouldn’t carry to the guards who hung back from the edge. The soldier stood just behind the River King with his hands bound in front of him. There wasn’t anything stopping Grey from sending the River King to his death with a well-placed kick or a shove in the back. Both men knew he wouldn’t do it.

“The right thing?” the River King scoffed. “I always do the right thing...the right thing for me, that is.”

“Then explain keeping Sadie?” Grey shot right back. “Not sending her to New York for the bounty was definitely the right thing to do and you know it.”

The River King waved an indifferent hand. “Right and wrong are fluid concepts. What’s right today maybe wrong tomorrow and vice-versa. That being said, trust me when I say I’m seriously thinking about shipping her out of here.” Grey grunted at this. The River King glanced back at him with a twisted smile. “I’m certainly not going to let her go or you either, for that matter. It would mean my death and that seems to me to fall into the very, very wrong category.”

Grey came closer, hulking over the blade-thin king. “You could come with us you know. Your place here is doomed, you have to see that.”

“I don’t have to see anything. It’s one of the prerogatives of being king.”

“You can pretend you don’t see the obvious all you want, but everyone else knows how you screwed up,” Grey said. “First you fail to cash in on your daughter’s bounty, then you let me and Deanna escape right from under your nose. Then Jillybean just ghosts out of your prison and you still don’t know how. And are you also going to pretend you don’t see that?”

Grey lifted his chin, indicating the dim remains of the bridge, the very thing that had made the ordinary man next to him the River King in the first place. Grey smirked at it. “How many prisoners did you lose? Fifty? Sixty? Enough to make you a laughing stock. Enough for everyone to blame you.”

For a time, the River King stared through the night at the last span left above the water with its two crumbling supports. Every once in a while a chunk of concrete splintered off to splash among the drifting zombies. The last bridge spanning the Mississippi was gone. Despite his rage over what had happened, he managed a moment of melancholy at the loss.

He still had his backup bridge, the pontoon, but it was nowhere near as majestic. In fact, it was downright ugly. Still it would work as long as he played his cards right. He wasn’t out of the game yet.

“Maybe the people will blame me,” the River King allowed, “Unless I can produce the ‘real’ culprit first. Here, let me show you my version of doing the right thing.” He snapped his fingers and one of his goons hurried up. “Arrest Demarco and Buckner for murder, conspiracy…and let’s throw a charge of treason on top of that as well.

The goon started to turn away but the River King stopped him. “Get Halder, too. I can’t stand that guy’s mouth. It’s high time I shut it permanently.”

Captain Grey glowered at him. “Killing three innocent men is not, in any way, the right thing to do.”

The River King laughed, honestly.

This was just what he’d been hoping for when he’d ordered the holier-than-thou captain to accompany him to the bluff. The king lived by the credo: “Don’t get mad, get even” and just at the moment he was hell bent on revenge. Grey was there out of spite. He was there because the River King wanted to see someone squirm.

“Oh, they’re not innocent,” the king said, “not by a long shot. And…” he snapped his fingers for another of his goons, “…and I wasn’t done. Greg, I’m going to triple the normal bounty on the escapees. I want you to let every available hunter know that I’m willing to pay three times the amount of what they would have fetched in New York.”

Even in the dark, the River King could see the shocked look on the goon’s face. “Yes, I said triple,” the River King assured him. “Now get going.”

Grey’s face was as white as the moon. “Triple?” he growled, furiously. He knew what such a bounty would mean; the entire city would very soon be chasing after the escapees. Neil wouldn’t stand a chance.

“You have a problem with triple? Maybe you’re right,” the River King said, his impish smile growing. “Let’s make it quadruple the amount. That should keep all the young guns very busy, and while they’re out hunting your friends, I’ll consolidate things here. The only question is when I should pop out the new bridge.”

“The bridge isn’t going to save you because you’re living in a dream world,” Grey said. “Who’s going to believe you have that much in the way of ammo to cover the bounties? There were almost sixty people who escaped. And who’s going to believe the charges of treason and conspiracy against those other three? Everyone will know you’re just using them as scapegoats.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” the River King quoted.

“Meaning what?” Grey asked, guardedly.

The River King smiled, relaxing by degrees as his new plans began to gel in his mind. “A military man such as yourself must remember Stalin. He murdered thousands and most of his victims voluntarily confessed to all sorts of absurd things. You see, the trick is to cause pain, but also to hold out hope that a confession will lead to freedom.”

“I don’t think it was that simple,” Grey said.

“Of course not. There was a lot more psychological damage that had to be done first, but I don’t have time for the long game.” He snapped his fingers and another goon jogged up. “Arrest Dixon as well. Also, I will need a video camera set up for his interrogation. We’ll need some clean sheets and a hacksaw as well.”

“But he didn’t do anything,” Grey hissed as soon as the goon had left. “He wasn’t even on duty when they escaped.”

Laughter burst out of the River King’s mouth. “Oh, please! You aren’t just naïve, you’re blind as well. Dixon was the chief warden of my prison, that same nasty-ass prison you were in until a few hours ago. Do you know how many people he has personally tortured?” Grey didn’t answer, he only glared. The River King scoffed at the look and went on, “Dixon is just as guilty as I am unless you believe in that
I was just following orders
, Nazi crap.”

“Ok, I was wrong,” Grey admitted. “You all deserve what’s coming to you, but Neil doesn’t and neither does Jillybean or any of them.”

The River King almost laughed again. There was a raging, angry, mirth in him that threatened to come out over the littlest thing. He bit it back and then clapped Grey on the shoulder and said, “I like you. You’re funny. You could be my court jester. Whoever gets what they deserve? Did Hitler? Nope. He was lights out in a second. What about Chairman Mao or Lenin or Stalin or any of them? How do you get what you ‘deserve’ after causing millions of deaths? You can’t. In reality no one ever really gets what they deserve…wait, there is an exception. All the pathetic nobodies out there get what they deserve. They get nothing and deserve it; like your friend, Neil. He’s going to die because he’s a piss-ant little nobody.”

“I doubt it,” Grey shot back. “He’s a survivor. He’s tougher than he looks.”

Now the River King really did laugh, long and loud. The zombies below looked up and began fighting the slow current to get at him. He kicked a rock down onto them, still chuckling. “Neil? Tougher than he looks? I suppose that’s possible but only because he looks just a slightly bit tougher than a daisy. I give him three days out there.”

“You seem to forget he has Jillybean with him,” Grey replied. “I doubt you’ll ever catch them.”

“Oh, but I think I will. I’m betting that even now that foolish little girl is cooking up a plan to rescue you. Why do you think you’re still alive? Besides, of course, the fact that you will still make me a lot of money fighting in the cage. Which reminds me.” He snapped his fingers a final time.

Two men dragged a third person up to the cliff’s edge. Grey was surprised to see that it was Bone-crusher Davis, the man he had fought in the cage earlier that night.

“Remember, Bone-crusher?” the River King asked. “And remember how you supposedly killed him?” Grey had choked him almost into unconsciousness when Jillybean’s bombs had gone off blowing up the bridge, then he had told Davis to play possum and escape if he could.

“It wasn’t his idea,” Grey said. “It was all me.”

“Yeah well, it doesn’t really matter whose idea it was,” the River King answered. “The fact is everyone thinks he’s dead and we can’t very well disappoint them, now can we?”

“They don’t have to know,” Grey said, desperately. “You could let him go, I’m sure he won’t hang around.” The River King started to shake his head and Grey added, “Or you could sell him to New York or to Gunner, or something. He doesn’t have to die. Think about it, you can still make money off of him.”

The River King pretended to consider this, but then said, “Naw. I can’t take another blow to my reputation. I can’t let it get out that I was soft on Bone-crusher, here. It’s best if I just throw him in the river. Boys,” he said gesturing to the black water.

Davis’s eyes went wide as the men propelled him to the edge of the cliff. He pushed back but he was bound and basically helpless. “Hey, don’t do this, please…”

It was too late for begging. The two goons thrust him off the cliff; he screamed all the way down. The fall was horrible but not deadly as he landed in four feet of murky water. He survived with broken bones, but unfortunately, he cried out in pain, causing every zombie within hearing distance to converge on him. His screams only grew louder in the quiet night.

“You son of a bitch!” Grey hissed in anger.

“Yes,” the River King said, smiling maliciously. “And don’t you forget it.”

Chapter 2

The little girl awoke to see the springs of a bed above her and the smell of wool in her nose. Mentally she said:
At first Jillybean thought she had fallen asleep beneath a bed; it wouldn’t have been the first time. She lay there as still as the zebra in the crook of her arm. She was confused at her whereabouts but retained the self-discipline not to react beyond cracking her eyes.

The last thing she remembered was getting in the truck with Neil and driving away from the Mississippi.

You’re at Fort Campbell
, Ipes told her.
Neil carried you in. You were drooling, in case you didn’t know

“I wasn’t,” she said, though in truth she didn’t know for sure.

Oh yeah you were. It was like you were a basset hound. You had your tongue out and everything!

“You’re exaggerating and that’s what means you’re lying,” she said, swinging herself up and dangling her feet. She was so small that she didn’t have to duck her head to keep from hitting the bunk above her.

Ipes was right about one thing at least, she was on a military base. The bunk beds, the green woolen blankets, the Spartan nature of the room all suggested a soldier’s barracks. Neither Jillybean nor Ipes had ever been in one before; the knowledge was based entirely on intuition.

She got up, glancing around and poking into drawers. There was a mishmash of junk in them, all “boy stuff” as she thought of the razors and deodorant and shoe polish. Most of the drawers held mottled green clothes, but one of them held something of particular interest. It was a Ka-bar and it was very boyish.

You better put that down
, Ipes said of the long bladed knife,
before you put your eye out
. Including the handle, the military fighting knife was about a foot in length—it was like a small sword for the three and a half foot tall Jillybean. She waved it through the air.

Ipes screeched,
Careful! That’s not a toy

“I know that,” Jillybean replied. “Don’t you think I know the difference between a toy and real life? Sheesh.” She put the stuffed zebra down and unworked the belt buckle across the middle of her pink jeans. She then set the scabbard through the belt and hung her new sword about her waist.

She tried to see how she looked but found the angle less heroic than she had expected. “I need a mirror.”

What you need is a psychiatrist. What do you think you’re going to do with that knife? Fight monsters? You are way too small

“Was I too small to save Mister Neil and everyone else?”

Ipes didn’t have an answer to that. She picked him up and went to the window, padding silently on her bare feet. The view was entirely uninspiring: more ugly barracks and, three floors below, zombies wandered around on the sidewalks, for some reason they were avoiding the long grass of the lawns. She glanced up at the blue sky.

It’s three o’clock
, Ipes told her. She didn’t question how he knew; there weren’t any working clocks and hadn’t been for months, even so he was probably right within twenty minutes, give or take.

“Three? What a weird time to start the day. I must’ve been real sleepy.”

I told you about the drool. It wasn’t a joke; you even got some on me, right on my tail. It was all wet and icky

She gave his tail a quick squeeze. “Your tail is completely dry, you big fibber.”

It happened when we were in the truck and that was a good long time ago. But if you don’t believe me you can ask Mister Neil. He put his hand right in it

“He did?” she asked. She was mortified at first, but then she remembered she was mad at Neil. He was planning on leaving Captain Grey and Sadie and Eve behind with that evil toad, the River King.

That’s not what he’s doing
, Ipes told her.
He’s trying to protect you and get you to safety

“No where’s safe anymore, Ipes.” She went to her Ladybug backpack and fished about among all the odds and ends, and found a clean shirt at the bottom. The one she was wearing smelled like smoke and bombs. “I need to pick up some perfume,” she muttered as she dressed.

When her Keds were on her feet and laced up, she went to the door, and cracked it a quarter inch and put one blue eye to the slit. She could see little besides a stark white hall, however she could feel vibrations against her cheek and hear the low murmuring of voices.

She didn’t rush out to greet them.

The past couple of months had taught her the hard lesson that people could be worse than zombies sometimes. She crept out of the room and followed the voices—it was two of the prostitutes gossiping about another of their group. Jillybean didn’t stay to listen. It was Neil she wanted to see so that she could change his mind about the rescue.

He won’t listen
, Ipes told her.
You know he’s not the same as he used to be
. That was sadly true. Neil had undergone a change and Jilly didn’t like it one bit. He had been the sweetest man she’d ever known, besides her father that is. Now, he was a touch cold and more than a bit severe.

Severe may be too light a word
, Ipes said.
I wouldn’t put it past him to paddle you the next time you get out of line

“There’s no way.”

He might. He’s in charge of you and if you won’t listen, what else can he do?

She hadn’t thought about that. “The smart thing for him would be for him to listen to me more. You have to admit, if I have an idea it’s usually a good one.” They were at the stairs. It was so dark she couldn’t see an inch in front of her nose. She resisted the urge to pull out the Ka-bar. Listening was smarter; it only took seconds to confirm that there weren’t any monsters down in that deep black.

Ipes was quiet until they reached the second floor and then he blurted out,
That was close!

“Close to what?” she wondered.

The zebra wasn’t one for very dark or very scary places and the stairwell had been both.
Don’t change the subject
, he said with a bit of a snap to his tongue.
You saying that Mister Neil should listen to you more is like saying you should be the grownup and he should be the kid

She didn’t answer him immediately; her attention was on the hallway. It seemed an exact replica of the one directly above their heads: the same white walls, the same white floors, all still pretty much spotless after nine months of the apocalypse. Not a single one of the doors was open even a crack. She was sure they were all locked and it would not be a long shot to guess that most of them would also have a dresser pushed in front.

Ipes, his mane still standing on end after the dark of the stairs, turned his head this way and that.
Which one is Mister Neil’s room? It could be any of these, or even one on the first floor

“Probably not.” A glance down both halls and a quick count of the doors led her to believe she didn’t need to go any further. “This is his room.” She stepped up and knocked lightly on the door directly across the hall from the stairs.

Out of all the doors in this entire building, you think this one is his? Five bucks say it’s not

Neil, wearing army man clothes that were way too big for him, opened the door a second later, his light blue eyes were rimmed red but were otherwise clear. He hadn’t been sleeping, as Jillybean had guessed. “Well hello, Jillybean,” he said bending at the waist. “You sleep ok?”

“Ipes said I drooled.”

The baby blues flicked briefly to the zebra in her arms before he answered, “Maybe a little.”

“Hmm,” she murmured a touch unhappily. “I was probably just so full of water that some leaked out.”

Or you just drooled
, Ipes whispered into her mind.

“Oh you just hush,” she hissed, casting an evil eye on the zebra. “And don’t forget you owe me five bucks.”

He had been around her long enough that Neil normally ignored it when she whispered to Ipes, but this time he asked her, “How is a zebra going to pay the five dollars? He doesn’t have a job.”

“Even if he had a job, he wouldn’t pay. He already owes me like a gazillion-billion dollars.”

Do not

“Do too!”

Neil smirked and opened his door further for them to step in. “Was this about the drool? Because if it was I have to say that it wasn’t a lot.”

Jillybean gave the room a quick glance. “Uh-uh. I bet him this was your room. These rooms sure do look alike on the inside. I mean mine upstairs was the exact same.”

Neil sat on the only bunk in which the linens were in disarray. “They look even more alike on the outside. So, how did you know where I was staying, Sherlock? A stray hair that matched mine on the knob? A size seven and half shoe print in the hall?”

“Actually it wasn’t anything about you…wait, first, what’s a Sherlock?”

“A fictional detective. He was a genius who could tell all sorts of things about a person by tiny clues. I used to think it was really kind of farfetched until I met you. You have been able to make some pretty giant leaps in logic.”

She was having a leap of logic just then. It seemed like Neil was humoring her.
He doesn’t want to talk about Captain Grey
, Ipes suggested. Jillybean agreed but at the same time she’d been flattered by the comparison.

“There was only one clue,” she answered. “I heard two of the prostitute ladies on the top floor.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, I think so,” she said with a shrug. “The prostitute ladies all stick together so I figured they were all up there, and I know the ladies from the Floating Island don’t really like them so I figured they were all down here with their men. That only leaves the prisoners that me and Captain Grey rescued. You know the ones you and Sadie were captured with?”

“I remember,” Neil said. “So you think the prisoners are downstairs on the first floor?”

Jillybean gave him a look as if he was crazy. “Who would want to be so close to the monsters? No, they’re not down there. They’re on this floor but I don’t know where.”

He was smiling at her in a strange manner. “But you knew which room was mine?”

“Yes, because you would’ve chosen last and this is the worst room on this floor, the stairs open right in front of it. If a monster comes up it’ll come right in here.”

Neil gave her a grim smile. “As always I’m in awe of that big brain of yours. You’re very smart, Jillybean, that’s why I’m sure you understand about Captain Grey.”

“I understand he’s one of us,” she said, her brows growing dark above her blue eyes. “He’s like family and that’s what means we don’t leave him all by himself. He’s probably very ascared.”

“I don’t think Grey is afraid of anything,” Neil replied.

“Then what about Sadie? She’s certainly ascared and she’s my sister. We did the pinky swear and that makes it official.”

Neil opened his mouth to reply but before he could say anything someone knocked on the door softly and came in. It was Deanna Russell, looking fresh-faced and eager. “You’re awake, good. About Captain Grey, we can’t leave him.”

“Or Sadie and Eve,” Jillybean added, looking at Neil. “They’re your daughters for all goodness.”

The easy smile he’d been wearing slipped from his face. “Look, the both of you, it’s not like we have much of a choice here. We don’t have any weapons or…”

A third knock at the door interrupted him again.

“Hello, Neil?” a man’s voice asked through the door. “You awake? It’s Michael; can we talk?”

“Not if it’s about Captain Grey.”

For a few seconds, there was an uncomfortable silence from the other side of the door. Michael eventually cleared his throat, and said, “Well it kind of is.”

Neil made a noise of crankiness—a very un-Neil like sound. Deanna rolled her eyes at the sound and opened the door since she was closest.

Michael, whose borrowed fatigues were as small on him as Neil’s were large, was all set to step in, but paused at the sight of the tall blonde. “Am I interrupting? I could come back later if I am.”

Deanna’s eyes narrowed. “What do you think you’d be interrupting?”

Jillybean was clueless as to the reason behind Deanna’s sharp look or why Michael started saying: “I…I…I…”

“Nothing’s happening,” Neil snapped. “Deanna and Jillybean are here for the same reason as you. They want to save Grey and Sadie.”

“And Eve,” Jillybean reminded. “Don’t forget her.”

“I can never forget her,” Neil said, still sharply. He huffed out a breath and then turned from them and went to the window where the sun lit him up. He seemed very young to Jillybean. She knew he was old like Mister Captain Grey and Mister Michael, however just then his cheeks were soft and smooth-looking and his eyes were so brightly blue that he seemed as young as Sadie who was just a big kid after all.

“I can never forget her and I don’t plan on it.”

BOOK: The Undead World (Book 5): The Apocalypse Renegades
9.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Secret Asset by Stella Rimington
Alphas Divided - Part 1 of 3 by Jamie Klaire, J. M. Klaire
The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance
Worry Warts by Morris Gleitzman
Changes by Charles Colyott
The Dirty Book Murder by Thomas Shawver
Rags to Rubies by Annalisa Russo
The Legions of Fire by David Drake