Humanity’s darkest hour is upon us. It’s all come down to this…
When a war you don’t want kicks down your front door, what do you do? Preppers tell you to plan for the worst. But no one tells you what to do when a clan of psychopaths starts launching dead bodies into your encampment. The San Francisco survivors have seen their fair share of war, but this might be a war they cannot win, for they’ve never met an enemy quite like this.
Nick, Marcus and Bailey are MIA and in the worst situation of their lives, but people like Corrine, Amber and Abigail are counting on them. What happens when you’re locked in cages and the people you count on most are not there to save you? You tell yourself to either get strong or die, but the mind is a pliable thing—once it reaches the point of failure, there’s no coming back.
Ben and Daisy are on the move, heading for D.C. in search of meaning, or hoping to find redemption. When you’ve failed your family, yourself and the nation, how do you bounce back? In order to survive the apocalypse, knowing how to fight is one thing, but learning to live with your past while trying to find meaning in this new, dark world is another thing entirely.
In this final installment of the Last War series, the full cast of characters returns one last time. Each has a part to play, but the story won’t unfold the way you think. True to form, nothing goes right, and not everyone survives, but no one ever said endings were clean, and good endings are seldom predictable…
READING ORDER OF THE COMPLETE LAST WAR SERIES:
- The Last War
- The Zero Hour
- The Ophidian Horde
- The Infernal Regions
- The Killing Fields
- The Barbarous Road
- The Terminal Run
Categories: Post Apocalyptic Survival Fiction, EMP, Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Women’s Adventure, Men’s Adventure
Release date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: River City Publishing
Print pages: 308
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The Terminal Run
Just when life is starting to feel halfway normal, some total jack-hound decides it would be peachy to catapult some dead bodies into our camp. The first corpse face plants on the asphalt not five feet away from our outdoor lunch table. It might have been a man based on the haircut and the narrow hips. Now it’s just a pancaked splat on the pavement that has everyone screaming.
Before this morbid affront, lunch with the kids was chili and chips. As parents and guardians, we were relaxed, laughing, talking, eating. Not expecting to be attacked without provocation.
We’d converted the parking lot inside the City College of San Francisco’s John Adams campus into folding tables and chairs, a fire pit circled by canvas loungers, an outdoor training area for combat techniques. The “yard” is blocked off by a massive cinder block wall we’d erected to protect us from things like this back when things like this might have happened. Those days should have been over. So obviously, our guard was down.
In the last few months, much of the rest of humanity had perished. They died of dehydration, starvation, or they killed each other. Mostly they killed each other.
There are a few hold outs, for sure, but these are the ones who will starve to death, who will die on the couch, or over a toilet, or splayed out on the living room floor where they’ll sprout flowers from their dead bodies twenty or thirty years from now.
But this is our fortress. Our home.
Not some self-delivery morgue.
After the riots and most of the killing petered out, we understood there would be residual deaths. As much as another year of it. The clean up persists, too. There are still rogue groups of do-gooders trying to keep some semblance of order in the city. Every so often they take to burning huge piles of bodies, like in the beginning of the war when we feared the diseases of the dead.
To this day, there are still as many as half a dozen burnings a day.
The brown soot floats in the air, the remains of the human population now becoming part of the jet stream, part of our ecosystem. We probably drink one or two corpses a month from the rain catch alone. More times than not I want to say, “So, can we boil out the ash of the dead, or are we getting a little bit of someone’s aunt Martha every time we take a sip?”
Questions that will never have answers…
Our little community, our tribe, managed to insulate ourselves from a lot of this mayhem. When the world was free and alive and willing to debate and hate and choose sides that didn’t involve one side being right and the other being wrong, there was this long, emotional debate about guns. I didn’t like them then, not one bit. Now they saved our lives one bullet at a time.
And our vets. Man do I love our vets!
They’re pretty amazing when it comes to insulating a lot of the horrors of this war from our kids. Not the Macy’s, the Atlanta’s and the Indigo’s, but certainly the Elizabeth’s of the world. That is, until you get a pack of idiots with their off-color humor launching corpses into your early afternoon activities.
The gigantic cinderblock wall we built around the only entrance to the community was strong enough to keep people out. The way it’s packed with cement and guarded, we’ve come to see it as impenetrable. The record still stands—that no one has breached it—but now we’re going to have to add a footnote: no one alive has ever breached it. In addition to the wall, we have adept men with guns who are experienced in security and killing, and these men stand on the roof and they are positioned outside the wall. These are our male survivors. Our alpha males.
When the world tunnels into ruin and only the strongest survive, suddenly beta males are an endangered species. It’s guys like Rider, Rex and Jagger who survive. It’s guys like the pre-war version of my husband, Stanton, who learn to adapt, to shed the polite and sophisticated ways of the past, to embrace this new world and the new responsibilities heaped upon them. These are the guys who transform themselves from beta males to something much closer to alpha males.
Because of men like ours, and alpha females like Indigo, we have girls like Macy, Atlanta and Sarah who step up their game. We’re strong, capable women, able to survive the purge of mankind long enough to think about one day repopulating our species. As women, this is our dream. This is what we aim for every day. Even more important, we know we are the people to do this, to lead the human race forward once again. At least that’s the plan. But then this...
A reason to question our faith in humanity once more.
The first corpse ruins all these warm and fuzzy feelings. Then the second. After the third body comes sailing over the wall, most of us start to get really pissed off. We’re clamoring for retribution. Like I said, this is our home. Our sanctuary.
Dozens of terrified eyes are turning to the otherwise blue skies as more of these lifeless, flying corpses head our way.
Right now I’m hustling everyone inside, the urgency of the situation alone getting people moving.
A body smashes into the folding table half the adults were sitting at, myself included. The center of the table is crushed in, its legs buckling. Plates of food scatter everywhere. Another body hits the top of the cinder block wall, its back breaking in half, its torso ripping open. I expect to see its guts gravy out, but they are long since dried out, and now on display.
Through all this I can’t help thinking, who would do such a thing? What did we do to anyone that would warrant such a sick act of reprisal? We didn’t take anything from anyone, and we certainly didn’t announce ourselves as offensive, or overly ambitious. Not in our demeanor and not by any sort of behavior.
This was just an abandoned college/library we made our home after we won the war with the machines and survived the assault by the Ophidian Horde.
A woman’s body in a house dress rockets into the side of the building, hits hard and drops in a heap in front of us. Another woman slams into a window, shattering it, dropping with broken glass to the pavement below.
Half the scrambling people are now screaming. But not me. Whatever things my brain is trying to contemplate no longer matter.
This is happening.
We are officially under attack.
Body after lifeless body obliterates the once clean pavement around the school and inside our wall. These rotting corpses strike the ground with the kind of force you don’t even want to think about.
For some of these bodies, we’ll need shovels and a mop to clean them up. We’ll need buckets of water to wash away the gore. Others are older, less juicy.
Some just dried husks.
You can tell the ones who died first by the distance they travel. The older dead weigh less, so they hit the street and skid up against the outside of the wall in front of the school. It’s the recently deceased that reach the high side of the building, or worse; they land on the roof top where we started our gardens.
At this point, almost everyone is inside and the attack isn’t slowing any.
“Cincinnati, let’s go!” Indigo shouts from inside the door she’s holding open for me. Two more bodies overshoot their mark, landing on the roof. Great. They’re attacking our future food supply.
Yeah, so now I’m pissed.
I hustle inside then upstairs, head to the roof through a makeshift entrance we cut into the ceiling six weeks ago.
Fresh corpses have taken out several rows of vegetables, their bodies twisted in and around the raised planter beds. Fearing the spread of disease, we’ll later be forced to tear out the affected crop and dispose of both the plant and the contaminated soil.
Another body hits the side of the college at the corner of the roof, slides down and falls to the T-shaped lot below.
Have these fools no shame?!
Scanning the street, I spot the source of all this commotion. It looks like a bunch of kids have set up this huge, medieval looking apparatus just down Ashbury closer to Fulton. I count somewhere around twenty-five guys. Most of them are now standing on the base of this attack structure cheering. One guy is dragging a corpse from the side of the road while two more are fitting it on the end of what looks like a ten or twelve foot arm.
Stanton arrives on the roof beside me. “What the hell, Sin?” he growls.
I point toward the problem and say, “If you can explain exactly what in God’s name that is, I’d be impressed.”
I look at him, at his beard and the new muscles he’s put on over the last couple of months. He’s now got a steely look in his eye that’s befitting of who he’s become. I don’t tell him he’s like a clone of Rider, or Jagger; he knows this. That was always his intention. To hold his own. Now he can. He holds his own when it comes to a fist fight, when it comes to guns, when it comes to taking on the lion’s share of responsibility.
I had a feeling he’d always been like this—the kind of man who needed to rise to the top of whatever it was he went after—but to see him transform physically as well as mentally was damn sexy.
“Looks like some sort of a Monty Python type catapult. Like something out of the medieval times. My God,” he says, looking on in wonder, “that thing’s huge!”
We watch two of them load yet another corpse while the rest of the men pile on the wooden base as a counterweight to the massive swinging apparatus. The hand signal goes up, levers are released and the impossibly long arm hurls the body over the top of the structure. The swift and violent motion causes the back of the assembly to hop off the ground, sending a multitude of guys flying. A few manage to hang on.
Cheers follow as the next body comes sailing in.
“This is your video game generation looking to survive the apocalypse,” Stanton says. “Bunch of damn LARPers is what they are.”
“What’s a LARPer?”
“Live action role play. It’s what some of the more hardcore gamers do when they’re forced out of their mother’s basement, but don’t want to get a real job. They pretend the real world is like their video game world, so they do things like this.”
“Well right now those kids are destroying our future crops, and they’re scaring the hell out of the kids.”
“We’ll have to get rid of the plants and soil,” he says, looking at the bodies draped over our planters. He’s right, but still, about five of us put our hearts and hope into this garden. It’s pretty much our lifeline when the manufactured food runs out.
“We’re stupid for staying in the city,” I finally say. It dawns on me for the hundredth time, makes me wonder why we didn’t leave here sooner.
“Yeah,” he mutters.
The assault lasts long enough to rattle each and every soul in our ever expanding community. Rider is up on the roof seconds later, steam hissing out of his eyes, ears and nose.
“These sick motherfu—” he barks at the sight of the dead bodies splayed across the ruined crop, stopping himself from being vulgar on my account. I almost tell him don’t bother. Stanton points at the morons down on Ashbury, to which Rider says, “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Afraid not,” I say.
The last body comes flying in, hitting the other side of the wall. Our attackers are out of bodies, so now they’re packing up fast, expertly breaking down the huge structure and rolling the base out of view. How is that even possible?
“This is the apocalypse version of a drive by,” Stanton says.
I hit his shoulder, then say, “You weren’t eating lunch when the bodies came flying in, smart ass.”
“Easy, Sin. I’m just making light of a bad situation.”
“A bad situation is when you have diarrhea and no toilet paper, or you walk in on two people having sex. Someone hurling corpses at us in the middle of the day isn’t a bad situation as much as it feels like an act of war.”
“They’re just kids.”
“And if Macy got hit with one of those? If it broke her neck or back? Would you be cracking jokes then?”
The look on his face tells me he gets it.
“Yeah,” I say. “Now you understand.”
Rider, Jagger and Rex mount a counter offensive, meaning they cussed a lot, grabbed their guns and went after the attackers. Later that afternoon, when they returned, Rex told me they couldn’t find the body-hurling device or the idiots operating it.
“We scanned the surrounding neighborhood two blocks out,” Rex says, “but man, when you think of all the places they could be, it starts to get overwhelming.”
“That doesn’t sound like a lot,” I say.
“Maybe you could go out next time and have better luck than us,” he mumbles.
“Sorry,” I say, feeling sheepish. “It’s just…why would they do this to us?”
“I can’t even begin to fathom their reasoning, or their repugnant display of sociopathic creativity.”
That night, after cleaning up the bodies and washing away the gore, we gather together to discuss our next moves.
Sarah says, “If they got away with this, if we have no breadcrumbs by which to find them, what’s to say they won’t hit us again?”
“They might,” Rider says, holding her hand.
“They probably will,” Rex adds.
The second assault comes days later, just after nightfall. I’m the first to see the flaming body arcing through the night sky, descending upon us. Macy’s smart enough to sound the alarm, which is the frantic sounds of a dinner bell being rung.
With burning bodies raining down around us, Rider, Jagger and Stanton rush in after the guns, charging moments later into the night with Rider in the lead. Catching sight of Rider’s face as he races by sends chills up my arms and trailing down my back. His expression is adrenaline-soaked rage. His look is unadulterated vengeance.
Rex, Indigo and three other retired veterans grab their weapons and stand guard outside the gates. Macy, Sarah and I head to our posts on the roof, making sure we’re not being flanked by these clowns under the cover of the assault.
Only half a dozen flaming bodies came in. A half hour later, Jagger and Rex return.
“Where’s Rider?” I ask.
“We found the catapult,” Jagger says. “I need the matches, Rex is grabbing some gas.”
“Yes, but where’s Rider?”
“With the catapult,” Jagger replies. “I already said that.”
“No you didn’t.”
With their pyromaniac’s starter kit ready to go, our two fearless alphas head back out into the night. Inside of fifteen minutes, the raging inferno sends a soft, bonfire glow into the otherwise pitch black night.
After burning to the ground what Jagger says was most likely a medieval trebuchet—or a heavy duty catapult meant for launching two and three hundred pound stones over castle walls back in the dark ages—Lenna looks at her husband and says, “How do you even know what that thing is? A medieval…whatever?”
“A medieval trebuchet. At work, some days we ran the clock out playing Clash of Clans against guys who were into that sort of thing,” Jagger replies. “These guys, some of them, they took their digital warfare seriously.”
By now about a dozen of us are sitting around the fire pit, drinking a warm victory beer and trying to gather our bearings.
We don’t feel victorious. Or vindicated.
“Who knew PlayStation would prepare the masses of pimply, gangly nerds for the end of civilization?” Indigo muses, not a glint of humor in her eyes.
There’s a fair measure of truth to the statement.
“We can’t discount them,” Margot says, chiming in. “I mean, these kids launched bodies at us. Bodies that were set on fire. Bodies that broke a few of our tables and windows. Bodies that contaminated parts of our garden.”
“Well there will be no more of that,” Rider says, the determination in his voice sharpened to a fine point.
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