BY BILLY CAMPFIELD
Ryan stopped walking and turned to face his companions who were travelling with him, wincing as pain lanced through his upper arm and shoulder.
"Much further to go Ted?" he called out.
A short skinny man dressed in torn brown pants and a dirty black coat answered. "Not long now I think."
Ryan frowned, "Do you remember which way to go?"
Ted scratched his scruffy black beard and laughed, revealing uneven rotted teeth. "Sure Ryan, I`m just still trying to get my bearings. After all it`s been a year or so since I was last there."
They had met up with Ted yesterday after rescuing him from a pack of mutie`s.
Yesterday, Ryan and the others had emerged from a gateway and found themselves in outback Australia.
Finally, after a countless number of jumps they had made over the years, they had arrived in Australia. Although, there was a time when Ryan and J.B. made a lone jump into a gateway with golden-yellow walls that may have been situated in Australia, judging by the constellations in the night sky, that could be seen through the missing roof of the redoubt. That was about a year ago when they were all stuck in a Tennessee redoubt, seeking refuge from a killer satellite known as a Kite.
Finally, a year later and here they were.
The gateway they jumped to yesterday was situated in a large underground military facility in the middle of the desert. It was Doc who informed them that the base was called Pine Gap and was one of three U.S. bases scattered around Australia.
Entirely financed by the U.S. Government and officially known as a "Joint Defence Space Research Facility," it was highly Top Secret, Doc had said, even to many members of the pre-dark Australian Government, or as Mildred commented, "Australia`s Area 51."
They had done a quick, small recce of the base, but found nothing useful since most of the hi-tech base appeared to be inaccessible, despite J.B.`s skill at picking locks. Although from what they gathered, the place was absolutely huge. Possibly, even larger to the first redoubt they ever jumped to in Alaska. But this time they found nothing. No wags or supplies.
They had left the base on foot and had emerged above ground and found themselves in the middle of nowhere. Except for some ruined buildings and some very strange round white structures that Mildred thought could be radars, there wasn`t much above ground. They had walked over the collapsed fencing and headed out into the desert.
Later on during the day they had come across a lone man perched on top of a huge boulder, surrounded by three large bizarre looking muties. The man was holding what J.B. recognised as a .45 Smith & Wesson M1917. After a brief and victorious battle, in which Ryan was bitten in the upper arm, they set of again, accompanied by Ted.
Ted was a native to this country and had lived here all his life. He spent much of his time wandering around the hot barren wilderness.
They were now walking along a long stretch of highway that cut through the wasteland. According to Ted, there was a small ville a couple of miles away.
Ryan looked at his upper arm once again, checking the dressing.
"Painful?" a tall red haired lady next to him spoke, concern in her voice.
"Yeah, a bit Krysty."
His arm was killing him and he was now in a hurry to get to the ville before night fall which was approaching fast. Doc, who was walking alongside J.B. and Mildred, spoke up.
"If I may be permitted to intrude in this conversation my dear travelling companions.."
Mildred rolled her eyes."Get on with it Doc," she said impatiently.
Doc nodded his head, "Yes, yes, I`m sorry Ms Wyeth. It`s just that I can`t help but notice that this path appears to have been used recently."
The one-eyed warrior dropped his hand to his holstered blaster automatically. "What makes you say that?" he said looking around, aware that the others had also gone on alert.
Doc smiled, "Simple my dear man. Because of those telltale foot prints I can see in the dirt at the side of the road."
Ryan turned to where Doc was pointing and saw the footprints for himself. He walked over to the edge of the highway and studied the footprints. "Well spotted Doc," Ryan said, furious with himself for not spotting them earlier.
"Who ever they were, they were going in the same direction as we are," a young boy with black curly hair at his side noted.
"So they were, Dean," Ryan said nodding at his son.
A skinny albino teenager knelt down and stared at the footprints closely. "Small feet," the teen said. "What`s that Jak?" Ryan asked.
"Small feet," Jak repeated.
Ryan looked over at Krysty, who was standing a few feet away searching the barren landscape around them. "Feel anything lover?"
The tall titian haired woman shook her head. "Not sure, it seems okay, but careful anyway."
Ryan nodded, still alert.
J.B. had been wandering around and searching the ground fifty or so yards away when suddenly, he knelt down and picked up something. "Dark night! look what I found" J.B. called out. He walked over to Ryan, holding up an object.
"What the hell is that?" Ryan demanded, looking at the small object J.B. was holding.
Krysty narrowed her eyes. "Is that a....Gaia!"
Ryan stared at what his long time companion was holding. "It was just lying there by itself," J.B. said. "Fireblast!" Ryan cursed in revulsion.
"Hot pipe!" Dean exclaimed.
In J.B.`s hand was a single severed finger. He handed it over to Ryan. The one-eyed man examined the small digit. "It looks fresh," he commented. He called Mildred over. "What do you think?" he asked as the black woman examined the finger.
"It looks to me as if it was bitten off. See the teeth marks at the base of the stump?" She looked at Ryan. "And you`re right," she said. "It is fresh, it hasn`t turned green yet." Ryan looked down at the pale finger in Mildred`s hand.
"How long ago?" he wondered aloud.
Mildred shrugged, "Who knows? A couple of hours maybe."
Ryan looked around him, pulling out his blaster. "What sort of creature do you think did this?" he asked.
Dean spoke up. "Something with sharp teeth Dad!" He quipped.
Ryan looked at his son, "Quiet, son," he said, silencing the boy. he looked again at Mildred who just shrugged. "I don`t know," she continued. "Like Dean said, a creature with sharp teeth. Could be anything" Ryan checked his blaster.
"We`re wasting time. let`s go, but triple-red folks, anything could be lurking near by, after all we`re in unfamiliar territory,"
Doc took a deep breath, "Ah, Down Under!" he sighed. "I always wanted to visit this great Southern Land!"
Ryan silenced him with a sharp glance. When the others had their blasters ready, Ryan nodded, satisfied. "Right, let`s go," he said.
An uneventful hour had passed and they still hadn`t reached the ville. Ryan raised his hand and the others came to a halt.
"Are you sure you know where you`re going?" Ryan demanded, addressing Ted.
"Of course I do Ryan," the Australian replied smiling. "It`s just over there, beyond those hills."
They all looked to where Ted was pointing with his Smith & Wesson and realised that there was a thin plume of smoke rising into the sky from behind some hills.
"Fireblast!" Ryan cursed, disgusted with himself for not noticing it sooner. His shoulder was killing him and he wasn`t as alert as he usually was.
Pull yourself together man! he scolded mentally.
J.B. was at his side, cradling his Uzi. "What do think bro? Are we going in?"
Ryan stared at the hilltops that blocked his one-eyed view of the ville. He couldn`t see any movement that would suggest sentries and it seemed too quiet.
Ryan heard Jak speak. "let`s go in."
"Got a strange feeling, lover."
Ryan turned at the sound of Krysty`s voice. "Why? what do you feel?" he asked.
Krysty looked around her and finally at Ryan.
"It`s hard to describe. Kind of like an empty feeling."
Dean hawked and spat on the ground, "It`s too quiet."
Krysty nodded, agreeing with the boy. "Exactly," she said.
Ryan thought for a moment. He looked at Ted. "Any reason why it could be this quiet?"
Ted shrugged his shoulders. "Beats me," he said. "From what I remember, it was never this quiet." For a few seconds Ryan was silent, deep in thought. He looked up at the darkening clear sky. It was twilight. Finally he spoke. "It`s getting dark, let`s check it out. triple-red, everybody. Again"
Blasters drawn, they left the highway and headed towards the hills.
Mark sat down on a small rock, facing the fire he had lit, ten minutes ago. Above the fire was the roasting body of a large tiger snake. Enjoying the warmth that the fire gave him, he inhaled deeply, savouring the aroma of the cooking snake. Next to him lie a battered rifle and a rusted machete. The machete was stained with dried blood that gave it a menacing look. He only used the machete for chopping up captured game. He dropped the blade and reached down between his legs and lifted his flask. He took a small sip, sighing as he felt the cool liquid pour down his throat.
He looked around at the deserted village. He had arrived yesterday and was puzzled to find the settlement devoid of life.
He placed the flask back on the ground and looked up at the now dark sky. The sky was completely cloudless and he could make out several stars and planets. Just ahead of him above the distant mountains on the other side of the empty village was Venus. Shining in the twilight sky as it had done for millennia.
A sound made him turn around.
"Smells good." A man`s voice said. "What is it?"
After the companions had reached the top of the hill, they had seen the small campfire and had decided to approach the lone man sitting by it.
Blasters ready, they walked up to the fire and Ryan spoke.
"Smells good. What is it?" the one-eyed man said.
He and the dirty looking man stared at each other for a few moments before the man finally answered.
Behind him, Ryan heard Dean gasp.
"Snake?" his son said. "Hot pipe! I love it!"
The man laughed, his shock vanishing as quickly as it came.
"In that case why don`t you all join me? There`s plenty to go round as you can see from the size of the bloody thing!"
Ryan kept his blaster pointed in the general direction of the man. He spoke over his shoulder. "How about it?" he said to the others. His companions all agreed.
All except Doc.
"Tiger snake... Can`t wait." he commented sarcastically.
Jak laughed. "Food`s food, Doc."
Realising that the man seemed ok, Ryan holstered his blaster and smiled for the first time.
"Sure. We`ll join you. Thanks, appreciate it."
After the introductions had been made Mark cut the cooked snake up and gave each person their portion. Dean was the first to tuck in.
"Mmm...snake!...beautiful," he said between mouthfuls.
Krysty, who was next to Dean, warned him against eating too fast.
"Sure," he mumbled with his mouth full making Krysty laugh and shake her head.
Jak, Doc and Mildred sat together. Mildred slowly ate her food and Doc ate just as slowly, forcing it down. The albino was right. Food is food. Jak, like Dean was eagerly devouring his portion of snake. During his life, Jak had eaten far worse things than Tiger snake.
Ryan, J.B. and Ted were talking with Mark as they ate their meal.
"I only got here a day earlier," Mark was saying as he devoured his food. "I was just as surprised as your friend Ted was when I found the village empty."
Ryan looked around him, not seeing much beyond the circle of orange light around the fire.
"Ever been here before?" he asked, feeling his blaster at his side, comforted by its presence.
Mark nodded, "two or three times during the last few months. Everything was fine then."
Realising that the man wouldn`t provide any useful information, Ryan decided to change the course of the discussion.
"So what are the locals like around here?" he asked.
Mark laughed, "Not many people around here," Mark was saying with a mouthful of snake. "Quiet kind of place, apart from the usual mutations, if you know what I mean."
Ryan noticed that the man`s vocabulary differed from those of the Deathlands.
"Any other villes nearby?" J.B. asked.
Mark nodded and took another mouthful. "Uh-huh, five or so miles away to the west there`s a village. Run by a man called Norgmann."
Ted nodded his head. "I think I know the place, seems familiar... never been there but..."
Ryan looked at Ted and then back at Mark.
"Been there before?" he asked before taking a mouthful of food.
Mark took a sip from his flask. "Couple of months ago," he replied.
A piece of rad shit streaked through the sky with a purple tail, making them all look up.
"A century or so later and it`s still coming down," Mildred commented.
Mark put the flask down and looked at both Ryan and J.B. "So what`s your story?" he asked. "Where you all from? You seem unfamiliar to this place."
Ryan took a sip from his own flask, his answer already prepared.
"We`re a bunch of traders from the south, decided to travel north for something new. Our wag broke down so we`ve been walking since. Met up with Ted later."
"Your what?" Mark asked, puzzled, not familiar with Deathlands lingo.
"Our transport," Ryan interpreted.
"Oh," Mark responded. "Not many vehicles about these days."
Ryan shrugged, not saying anything else. Mark took another bite. When they had finished eating, they settled down for the night. Ryan had suggested posting guards during the night but Mark assured them that they were safe and since everyone was tired, Ryan reluctantly agreed.
Mark was right. The night passed without incident. Except for a few distant howls that may have come from a wild dog, it was a peaceful night. The only danger came from a rock that Doc accidentally stumbled over on his way to relieve himself for the fourth time during the night.
Ryan awoke at the crack of dawn. On instinct he reached for his blaster.
It wasn`t there.
He sat up and looked around. Everyone else was still asleep, although he felt Krysty stir beside him. "Looking for this?" he heard a voice say.
He looked over his shoulder and saw Mark sitting down on a large rock hold his SIG-Sauer.
"Yeah, can I have it back?" Ryan replied, keeping his voice calm.
Mark laughed, "Oh sure you can!" he said sarcastically. "After you pry it out of my dead stiff fucking fingers!"
Ryan felt the scar on his cheek throb. It seemed that everywhere he and his fellow survivalists went, there was always some stupe full of shit and bravado crossing their path.
Ryan spoke softly, "Look, just give me my blaster back and we`ll forget about it. You can`t win."
Mark started to wave the gun around as he ranted. "Fuck you! With my new gun and my brains, I`ll be able to live a bit better now," he spat. "All my life I`ve have nothing but snake and shit." He gave another laugh. "We`ll it`s my turn for a bit of luxury now!"
On his left, between him and Krysty, Ryan was aware of the Steyr SSG-70 bolt-action rifle lying there. But it was no use in this situation. He felt Krysty`s hand touch his. She was awake.
He felt the blaster in her hand.
Felt her pass it to him.
Ryan gripped the .38-calibre Smith and Wesson.
Here we go again, he thought.
"Last chance," he said, already deciding that he was going to have to chill the idiot.
Mark gave another laugh, "Yeah, right One-eye!"
Ryan was just about to blast the stupe away when something happened.
From one of the old buildings to the right of Mark, came a noise.
Mark looked to his right and screamed as a large dark shape came bounding out of the darkened doorway and charged at him. The creature knocked Mark to the ground and started to rip into the man.
"Fireblast!" Ryan breathed.
He stared in shock as Mark was mauled by a mutie of some sorts. The creature appeared to be some type of large canine. Though it was hard to see with all the thrashing around.
The others were awake now. They all watched in silence as Mark was being torn to bits by the beast. They all had their blasters drawn, except Krysty, who was holding Ryan`s Steyr.
Finally the screaming stopped and the movements ceased. The creature buried it`s snout into the man`s ripped opened stomach and started to gulp down the entrails.
Ryan slowly raised the .38.
The mutie stopped it`s feeding and turned to face Ryan and the others.
"Good doggie," Ryan whispered, staring at the mutie, knowing that he had seconds to act.
The creature tensed and bared it`s teeth, revealing long pointed yellow fangs stained with blood.
He raised the revolver and shot the creature in the head, brains gushing out from the exit wound, spilling on the ground and on the mutilated corpse as well. The beast took another step and Ryan fired again. Finally the mutie fell to the ground. Ryan got up and walked over to what was left of Mark and reached down and pried his 9mm SIG-Sauer P-226 out of the corpse`s dead stiff fucking fingers.
"Poor stupe," he muttered, shaking his head.
The others joined Ryan and stood around the dead mutie and looked down at the creature. It was the same type of creature that Ted was saved from two days ago.
"What the hell is it?" Dean asked.
Ted shook his head, "Dunno, I`ve seen some of them around, but God knows what they are."
Doc prodded the corpse with the ferrule of his sword stick.
"Actually, it appears that this hell-hound may very well be some sort of mutated Dingo," the old man said.
Ryan looked at Doc, "A Dingo?" he asked.
Mildred nodded, "Yeah he`s right, It`s some sort of Dingo."
She put away her Czech ZKR 551 knelt down to examine it.
"The Australian wild dog," she went on. "Canis Dingo, belonging to the dog family Canidae. One of the few Australian mammals that`s not a marsupial. The Aborigines are believed to have introduced the dingo when they came to Australia 30,000 or so years ago."
Ryan was amazed. In the creature and at Mildred`s almost rehearsed knowledge of the creature.
"Are they normally this big?" he asked.
Mildred shook her head. "Uh-uh," she replied, shaking her head, making her beads rattle. "They were usually around two feet tall and four feet long. Never this big."
Dean shuffled closer. "Are they carnivores?" he asked. "Of course they are," he answered himself, shaking his head. "Stupe of me. It just chilled a man."
Mildred nodded and continued. "They used to hunt in small packs, killing wallabies, rabbits and sheep. Even a baby supposedly." She didn`t bother to elaborate on the last comment, knowing that the others wouldn`t understand it.
"What a monstrosity!" Krysty said shuddering.
"Dead monstrosity." Jak corrected, holstering his .357 Magnum Colt Python.
Ryan yawned and stretched. "Exactly. Why don`t we set off soon?" he said. "I`d like to see this ville that Mark referred to last night. Get a look at this Norgmann."
"Me too," J.B. agreed.
"What about breakfast?" Dean protested, making the others laugh.
"Of course." Ryan said, laughing as well.
Half an hour later, they were off. Heading west they set off across the sand, travelling over flat terrain. Ryan`s arm wasn`t hurting as much this morning. Mildred had checked it before they left and was satisfied that it was healing properly.
Eventually the landscape started to get hilly and they found themselves trudging up and down hills. After an hour or so of walking, the sky darkened with storm clouds and it began to pour. Within seconds, they were all soaked.
"Rain, in the Outback at this time of year?" Mildred exclaimed, amazed.
"Things are different, now." J.B. reminded her as they quickened their pace.
"By the three Kennedys!" Doc exclaimed. "What a deluge!"
They ran for several minutes until, miraculously, they came across several buildings.
"By the three Kennedys!" Doc exclaimed again. "This is a piece of luck!"
They all headed to the double story building and bounded up the steps and huddled on the verandah. "Fireblast!" Ryan cursed. "This could go on all bastard morning! Wonder how close we are to this ville."
Jak was peering through one of the windows. He turned to face the others. "We going in?" he asked. Ryan looked at the dark sky. "Probably. What is this place Ted?" he said to the small soaking man.
Ted shrugged. "Dunno," he replied. "Looks just like a typical house."
Mildred frowned in puzzlement. "What, out here in the middle of nowhere?" she asked.
Ted shrugged again and pointed to the other smaller buildings fifteen or so metres away.
"They could be old storage sheds," he said, wiping his face with his sleeve.
Jak couldn`t care less what the place was. "Going in?" he said.
Ryan nodded. "Yeah, triple-red." He pulled his blaster out and tried the worn brass door handle.
It was unlocked. He slowly swung the door open and stepped inside with his blaster pointing ahead of him.
"Feeling anything, lover?" he whispered over his shoulder to Krysty, who was third behind J.B.
"Nothing" she replied.
When they were all in, Jak closed the door behind them. They were standing in a small passage. At the end was a set of stairs and to their left and right were two empty doorways with both of their doors missing. There was a small bathroom on the left and to their right was a large room. They turned right.
The room was bare except for an old wooden table and some chairs. An old sofa was also situated against one of the walls.
Dean was eager to explore. "Come on dad, Krysty said it was safe!" he said sliding his Browning Hi-Power back in place.
Krysty corrected him. "I didn`t say it was safe Dean," she said frowning.
Ryan pulled his wet coat off and draped it over an old broken chair situated next to an old wooden table. "Might as well check it though," he said, shaking the rain from his hair and drawing his blaster. "Coming, J.B.?" J.B. nodded.
Ryan headed towards another door at the far side of the room, opposite the entrance, followed by J.B. and Dean.
The Armourer had his Uzi out and Dean was wielding his Browning.
"What about you, Jak?" Dean inquired.
Jak, shook his head. "Check other rooms," he said, heading back towards the hallway.
Ryan opened the door and the three of them left the room and found themselves in another passage that was dimly lit. To their left was another set of stairs stretching up into darkness and on their right, the hallway extended for another forty or so feet.
"This must be near the rear of the house," J.B. said.
"I`ll check upstairs and you two check the rooms on this level." Ryan instructed.
"Can`t I look upstairs, Dad?" Dean complained.
"Don`t argue with me boy, just do it." his father said frowning.
Ryan turned and headed for the stairs and J.B. and Dean turned right and came to a door on their left. The Armourer reached out to grab the handle. There was nothing there.
"Dark night!," he cursed. "Leave that last," he said to Dean. "Could be anything lurking in there."
They turned and walked to another door that was opposite. This time, there was a handle. J.B. turned it and it swung inwards.
The room had a dull grey look to it. It was completely empty. Every few seconds, the room would flash from the lightning outside.
Dean walked over the cracked window and looked out to the dark landscape beyond.
"Wow, it`s really coming down out there!"
J.B. joined him. "Can`t see far," he commented.
The rain was so heavy and swift that visibility outside only extended for about ten feet.
"Could be anything lurking out there," the man said grimly. He turned away from the window. "Let`s go. Nothing here."
They both walked out the room and continued down the hallway. There were two more doors left. One at the end and another to their left. They walked to the end and J.B. opened it. A strong gust of wind and rain washed over them and J.B. slammed it shut again. That left the one on the left.
They entered the room and saw the figure lying on the bed in the shadows.
They both cautiously approached the bed and saw that it was just a skeleton.
The skeleton was stretched out on the bed and appeared to be tied down. Worn strips of leather were wrapped around the wrist bones of the skeleton and also around the ankles.
"How long do you think it has been here?" Dean wondered aloud.
J.B. shrugged. "Probably since Skydark" he responded.
"Why`s it tied up like that?" Dean asked.
"How should I know?" J.B. replied. "Doc might have a hundred or so theories, ask him."
The boy laughed. "Thanks, but no thanks."
A loud crashing noise, split the silence.
"Dark night!" J.B. exclaimed. "That came from next door!"
They both left the room and headed towards the door they had first tried to open. Both had their blasters ready.
Doc, Jak and the two women burst into hallway as well, followed by Ted. They too, had their weapons drawn.
"What was that?" Krysty whispered.
Suddenly the door was wrenched open from the inside and there stood Ryan, covered in dust and bits of plaster.
"Ryan?" J.B. looked puzzled. "Thought you were upstairs."
Ryan shook his head, causing bits of plaster to fall at his feet like a miniature snowstorm.
"I was," he said. "Fell through the blasted floor."
Mildred shook her head smiling. "Never a dull moment with you, is there?"
They were back in the main room. Ryan, J.B. and the two women were seated at the table. Jak was sitting on an old couch by the right wall, sharpening one of his throwing knives against a whetstone.
Doc and Ted both stood by one of windows, chatting to each other, while Dean was pacing around the room restlessly.
"Find anything upstairs?" asked J.B., polishing his wire rimmed glasses.
Ryan shook his head. "not much," he said. "The place appears to be picked clean." He coughed, trying to draw the dust from his throat. "Just an old bathroom and a bedroom with a skeleton on the bed."
J.B. raised his eyebrows. "Tied down?" he asked, grinning.
"Yeah," Ryan said surprised. "How did you know?"
J.B. nodded towards the hallway. "Another one downstairs."
Krysty looked at both of the men. "Tied down?" she asked.
They both nodded.
"Whatever happened, must of happened almost a century ago, not our concern," Ryan stated. "What about you, Jak," he asked over his shoulder. "Find anything?"
Without looking up from his work, the albino shook his head. "Nothing."
Outside, the rain was still pouring down. Lightning flashed and there was a rumble of thunder.
"Looks like we`re here for the night." the one-eyed warrior commented, glancing towards one of the windows. "Anything to eat?"
The rest of the day passed slowly. Couped up in an old house in the middle of nowhere during a thunderstorm was driving Dean crazy. He walked down the hall, wandered in and out of the rooms and looked around upstairs. But there was nothing to do. In the end he just went back in the main room and stared out of the window into the heavy rainstorm.
Doc was stretched out on the sofa having a nap while Ted sat on the floor watching Jak who was still sharpening one of his many knives. Every now and then, lightning would illuminate the room.
Ryan and J.B. both sat at the table, cleaning their blasters. The Armourer had taken apart both his Uzi and Smith & Wesson M-4000 12-gauge, patiently greased them and then reassembled them.
Krysty and Mildred also sat at the table, quietly talking to each other.
When evening came, the rain still hadn`t subsided.
Finally, after they had eaten something for dinner, they had turned in for the night.
Ryan and Krysty had taken a room upstairs and J.B. and Mildred had taken another upstairs room. The room that Ryan had fallen through to the room below was ignored. Jak and Dean had taken a room downstairs and Doc and Ted decided to sleep in the main room.
Ryan had woke up. He could feel pressure in his bladder. He got up, feeling Krysty stir beside him and quietly left the room and headed towards the bathroom down the hall. Still not quite awake, he stumbled through the doorway and felt his way towards the toilet. When he was done, he left the bathroom and headed back to his room.
Once inside, he closed the door behind him and walked over to the window. It was still coming down heavy.
Lightning flashed every five or so seconds and occasionally thunder would roar, making the house tremble.
"What a night," he muttered.
Lightning flashed again and Ryan saw something.
"What?" he whispered.
He waited for the next flash of light.
A few seconds or so later there was another lightning flash.
"Fireblast!" Ryan hissed.
Outside, there were a dozen or so figures creeping towards the house.
Ryan could see more coming from the direction of the sheds that lay near the house. Every time there was a streak of lightning, the figures outside were closer, illuminated by the flashes. From what Ryan could make out, several of the figures were brandishing clubs or axes.
From the way they were walking all hunched up, Ryan realised they were muties.
He turned from the window and knelt down by Krysty.
"Wake up," he whispered.
She opened her eyes. "What is it?" she asked.
"We`ve got company, Muties." Ryan replied. "I`ll alert the others."
He pulled on his boots and grabbed his SIG-Sauer. Krysty pulled her knee high boots on and grabbed her .38 Smith and Wesson and checked to see if it was fully loaded.
After Ryan checked his own blaster, he went to rouse the others. He walked down the hall and knocked on J.B. and Mildred`s door.
"Yeah?" he heard J.B.`s sleepy voice call from within.
"It`s Ryan," the one-eyed man responded. "We`ve got trouble. Muties approaching."
He heard J.B. getting to his feet.
"Right, we`re coming."
Ryan descended the stairs and hurried down the hall towards were Dean and Jak were. The door opened and the two teens came out. Dean had his Browning and Jak had his Colt Python.
Ryan nodded. "I know, what about Doc and Ted?"
Jak shrugged. "Don`t know, let`s wake `em."
They headed towards the main room where the other two were and knocked.
"Doc, you awake?" Ryan called out softly.
"Well I most certainly are now Ryan, my dear chap." Doc responded from within. "What`s wrong?" The door opened, revealing Doc brandishing his LeMat. Behind him was Ted, holding his .45.
"The house is surrounded," the one-eyed man explained. "Muties, get ready."
Doc and Ted quickly got dressed.
Ryan heard the others descending the stairs. J.B. and the two women entered the room.
"How many?" J.B. asked.
"More than a dozen, at least," Ryan responded. "I saw them from the bedroom window."
J.B. straightened his Fedora. "How close?" he went on.
Ryan gestured with his blaster towards the window.
"Last I saw, they were almost at the house. Should be here now."
Another minute passed. Nothing.
Doc coughed, making Ryan face him, knowing that the middle aged man was about to speak.
"No offence Ryan, my fearless leader, but are you sure that you weren`t dreaming?"
Ryan glared at the middle aged man. "Course not," he snapped.
Jak moved to the door. "Want me to check?" he asked Ryan.
Ryan nodded. "Sure. Careful but."
Jak nodded back and crept to the front door of the old house. He carefully turned the knob and slowly swung the door open and found himself face to face with a large group of muties.
Ryan heard the blast of the Colt Python and charged out of the room followed by the others. He saw Jak and almost collided with him. Advancing through the door, was a group of the ugliest looking muties that Ryan had ever seen. Vaguely similar in appearance to Scalies, these muties were bigger. Their well muscled arms were nearly touching the floor, extremely razor sharp claws sometimes scraping against the wooden surface. Long broad snouts that occasionally opened and shut revealing rows of sharp teeth, moved side to side, scanning the humans that stood several feet away. Behind them, long scaly tails dragged along the floor, leaving a wet trail. The muties in behind kept on treading on each others tails causing them to falter every so often. Their dark scaly hide shined from the wetness of the the rain dripping from their deformed torso`s. Most of them carried crude clubs, battered axes or various pieces of iron that could be used as a weapon. To Ryan, they looked like walking alligators, although nowhere as big as the mutie gator named Frankenstein he and the others had chilled a year ago.
"Dark night!" J.B. exclaimed. "Quick, up the stairs!"
They all turned right and raced for the stairs at the end of the short hall. Doc was at the rear and when he reached the top, he turned and aimed his LeMat down the old staircase and waited until the muties reached the first step. He squeezed the trigger, firing a blast of fire and thunder into the group of muties that had started to ascend the stairs. Two of the creatures was knocked back from the impact, their muscled chest`s shredded from the blast, they let out a loud roar and kept on coming. Doc turned and followed the others down the hall to the second staircase that led to the rear hall. He hurried up and joined the others as they descended the stairs. When they were downstairs, J.B. pointed to his left at the end of the hallway.
Above them, they could hear the sound of heavy footsteps.
"That door leads outside!" J.B. hissed.
The companions hurried down the hall and reached the door at the end. Ryan turned the handle and opened the door, wincing as he and the others were hit with a blast of wind and rain.
"Fireblast! we can`t travel in this!" the one-eyed man cursed.
"No choice," J.B. said.
They all hurried out of the door and into the storm.
"Which way now?" Krysty said.
Ryan looked around him.
"That way." J.B. spoke up, pointing to the old sheds that lay several metres away. They ran to the small structures, trying to keep out of sight from the old house. One of the shed doors was open and they entered it. Ryan gazed back at the house.
"How many did you see?" J.B. asked Ryan.
"Dozen, mebbe more," Ryan replied.
"Can`t see any outside." J.B. whispered. "Must all be inside."
"What now?" Krysty whispered to Ryan.
Ryan thought for a moment. He turned to face the others in the darkness. "What about the others, fight or run?"
"I say run," Doc said. "I shot a couple with my faithful LeMat and it didn`t even slow the ghouls down."
Ted nodded from the rear, further in the dark shed. " Yeah, let`s run."
Jak shook his head. "Fight. Not travel in rain."
Dean nodded in response to Jak`s decision. "Fight."
Mildred and Krysty both shook their heads. "Run. Too many and too tough," Krysty said.
Ryan looked at the Armourer. "What about you?" he asked his long time friend. "Do you want to sta-"
He was interrupted by a loud roaring noise that filled the small shed like thunder followed by an agonised screaming.
Ted was standing at the back, listening when the sudden roar filled the shed and he felt the strong jaws of something close around his soft neck. He screamed, feeling the sharp teeth biting through flesh and into his wind pipe. His neck was bitten in two and an instant later his head, severed from the body, fell to the floor, trailing blood as it bounced away.
"Fuck!" Jak cursed, a few feet away from the mutie that was chewing on the headless stump. Doc raised his LeMat and pointed it at the creatures head, making it turn to face him.
"Back to Hell where you belong Hellspawn!" he roared and squeezed the trigger.
The roar of the blaster making the others cringe, the shell exploded and the shards of lead hit the mutie reptile square in the face. The head erupted in splinters of bone, flesh and gore.
"Oh Gaia!" Krysty moaned out looking down at the severed head of Ted.
"Dark night!" J.B. cursed. "The mutie must`ve been sleeping in here and we woke it up!"
Mildred stared down at the creature. "It looks like some type of alligator," she said.
Doc turned away from the twitching mutie and looked down at the head.
"Poor wretch, no one deserves to die in such a frightful, hideous manner," he said softly shaking his head.
Ryan sighed. "Let`s go." he said nodding towards the house. "Stupe fucking muties are probably still in the house walking `round in circles, maybe we can reach this bastard ville."
The companions left the shed and headed away from the house and into the storm.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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