Daggert – Journal Update

 

Into Darkness

 

I felt compelled to record past events that led three Fellow Comrades and I into the underworld, in the event that anyone might be brave enough to follow our expedition into darkness.

 

I remember it all started when I recently joined the Clan, “Reapers Rebels.” They are a rowdy bunch, but fun to hang with as long as you remain loyal. The benefits are that you can join resources and acquire goals much faster than you could alone.

 

Along with myself, there were three others who recently joined the Clan. We were selected to go out on a mission that would indeed prove our worth to the Clan and its members.

 

As we were all new, we didn’t really know one another nor have a feel for each other. It was starting to feel like things could go south real fast if the shit hit the fan. At this point, none of us had a clue to what the Clan would propose later that morning.

 

For now they just put us all together so we could get familiar with one another and maybe get a feel for how we all liked to approach things in a combat situation.

 

First you couldn’t help but notice Henderson, who we all simply called “Boomer.” This had to be one of the biggest men I had ever seen! But it was all lean and mean. You could hit this guy with your best shots and you would probably break your hand before he realized you were hitting on him. I am definitely glad he is on our side.

 

Though Boomer was a powerful man, he was also a quiet guy, with a real likeable demeanor. Since I don’t like to talk much myself, I found he was easy to be around. You knew there was nothing to prove around him; his very presence stated all that needed to be said.

 

You knew he liked war and was good at killing, yet it only was done in the name of survival and for his team. So to have him on this mission would make a world of difference.

 

Then there was Mason, a veteran of war with the scars to prove it. How this guy survived all that he had been through, one could only speculate. You already knew it was futile to try and pull those stories out of him.

 

He would no doubt be the one to keep us all alive and get us back home from this mission, and he took charge from the start. He was not necessarily appointed leader of this raggedy bunch, but it just felt right that he was in charge. It just seemed to naturally fit him.

 

I guess I saved this little dish for last: Alley Walker, a hot tempered blonde beauty! Yea, you can probably tell, I am kind of fixed on her. She has fair skin with very refined features and her fine ass hard body sends your mind in a million directions. She is very commanding in her own right, and carries herself with authority; but what a temptation.

 

Yet you knew in a combat situation you would not even think of her that way as she fit right in among the guys; she disarmed any sexual tension in the first minutes of entering the room. Her sense of humor seemed to follow right along with ours, so it was easy to bond with her. You could tell she was used to men’s company over hanging out with the gals.

 

The only thing I could see that might be an issue is that she feels maybe she has more to prove. That kind of attitude could get her, and maybe all of us, killed.

 

Just then the door opened and it was Trapper announcing we were needed in the Command Shack. Trapper pretty much ran the daily business of the Clan for Shamus who, in fact, was the agreed leader of the Clan.

 

Though there is no real leader, Shamus kind of lent a natural direction and leadership for the Clan and all seemed to be happy with the results he produces. He is good at accomplishing the common goals held by the Clan as a whole, so he simply seems to carry on in his command role.

 

Though at any time, any Clan member can challenge his authority for leadership and attempt to dethrone him, as it were. However, if they fail, they would probably be banned from the Clan forever. It’s like anything in life; you better have the support and votes, before you go making waves. Which is a conundrum in itself, as you can’t muster up support without stirring the pot.

 

As the four of us followed Trapper into the Command Shack, we could see Shamus bent over a new map that had recently come into the Clan’s possession. He was intensely going over every inch of it before looking up and finally greeting us.

 

“Mason, Daggert, Boomer and Walker, gather around and let me show you what I have in mind for this mission objective,” Shamus invited. “I know you are all new to the Clan and we want to offer you an adventure like no other. We have recently obtained this new map which leads down to the catacombs of the city’s heart.”

 

Shamus continued, “Here we believe lies the hiding place for yet another map, along with a very special key. The map will guide you down through the subways into long forgotten service tunnels, which will finally lead you deep into the catacombs where this new map and key are kept.

 

“It is just a rumor about this supposed prize, yet here is the map that leads to this treasure. And what, say you, does the map and key hold? Well to put it bluntly, it could be the way into the military base, but a way in that bypasses the outer and inner security parameters.

 

“Once in, the key will gain us entry into one of the many armories on the base, giving us an unlimited source for weapons and ammunition!” Shamus did admit that he was being very optimistic as he presented us with the mission objectives, as in all reality this could be a suicide mission. No one had ever even made it down there, let alone made it back.

 

Many attempts have been made for this rumored treasure, but with no success. So why the four of us would fair any better is up for question, but it comes down to the fact that we are the newest of the Clan members who, for one thing, still have something to prove to the Clan and secondly, we are very expendable in the Clan’s eyes as we have not bonded as many have.

 

Shamus added, “This type of mission requires a smaller covert insertion that will have far more success than a massive push into the depths of the city would result in.”

In fact, I remember that was tried a while back and a whole Clan was never heard of again. They went down 147 strong and not one returned to tell what had happened. I could only hope that would not be our fate.

 

Shamus then signaled Trapper to remove the blanket from the table across the room to reveal the surprise that would be a great equalizer. Trapper revealed a box containing 32 grenades, “This will give each of you 8 grenades each, to help off-set any overwhelming odds you may face down there.

 

Our Clan is one of the few to acquire so many to be used in one single mission. I am now entrusting them to you for the success of your mission and the victory of the prize for our Clan.”

 

As we divied up the box, I started to feel better about our chances for the first time in this conversation. That was not saying much, as we had no chance before the grenades were revealed. At least you felt you really did have the Clan behind you when they would entrust you with what must be one of the most prized weapons in the land, as they are not easily acquired. To have 32 all together and then to give them all to us, did say a lot.

 

Before this I thought they were simply throwing us to the wolves. Now I feel maybe we really do need to succeed to show the Clan that their trust in us was not misplaced.

 

Just as I was feeling better about this little proposition, Trapper came up from behind and stuck a needle in my arm. “What the hell?” I responded in surprise.

 

Trapper smiled and said, “Where you’re all going, you will be glad to suffer a little now rather than later. Just a little insurance to help keep you healthy.”

 

Chapter 2 – Adventure?

 

As we walked out of camp with a copy of the map to our fateful destiny, I can still hear Alley recalling how, in Shamus words, “we’re honoring you with this great Adventure!’ “Adventure my ass!” Walker muttered.

 

You have to admit Shamus was selling a pile, but he certainly knew how to make it sound great! To be optimistic about our success would be a fool’s folly. You almost have to ask yourself then, why are we walking to our certain deaths for such a futile effort?

 

Well for one, I suppose, it is something else to do besides just surviving day to day. Also, if by chance we do pull this off, we will go down in OffGrid immortality! We will be legends in the land for all time. One finds it hard to shake that off, or Shamus is just that good in selling us a bill of goods.

 

Plus, all of us would be catapulted from obscurity to heroes within our own Clan. Status like that is almost reward enough for the benefits that could bring. However, we were a long way from even being on the front porch of this adventure, and only time would tell on how far we would get at this point.

 

Chapter 3 – The Threat That Lies Beneath

 

We were now in a part of the city where not even the wildlife like to be found. The feeling around the center of the city was cold and smelled of death. We were all quiet and, in our own minds, thinking of what exactly might lie in wait for us.

 

In the past, during the time of anarchy when all seemed lost, people segregated into a few different groups. Those that were strong and yet still held a framework of right and wrong and then there were the thugs who simply manipulated people at every turn until they sucked the very life out of those weaker than them, until they were simply empty husks of what they once were. Soon after these weak vessels would die as they had nothing left to survive on or barter with.

 

Then there were those who simply vanished into the crags and holes of the city. Paranoid, weak and desperate, they hid during the day and crawled out of their hiding places by night.

Like vermin rising to the surface, as the sun set they besieged the city streets like a swarm of hungry rats, cannibalizing all they encountered. They found power in sticking together in large hoards and began to capitalize on the force they wielded.

 

After years of inbreeding and choosing to live in darkness, they have become far different from when they first entered the bowels of the city to hide. Now they have become unthinking freaks of nature. Acting more like a pact mentality, they only have one goal when they surface and that is to feed! We just call them Crazies.

 

Through the years their sight has become akin to the dark and very sensitive to light. Their vision is poor even in the dark, but their sense of smell is keen to any flesh they might gorge on.

 

They almost look albino with their bleached flesh and eyes dark as the pits they climb out of every night. The nearest thing they get to a shower is the runoff from surface storm drains. After they have been in the belly and sewers of the city for so long, they have everything from infected cuts and scrapes to boils and hives, all coated in the sewers’ finest slime coat.

 

The main problem is when you kill one, there are another ten behind the one you just killed, with another hundred behind the ten. They are like a swarm that simply overwhelms you. With an enemy like that, how can you win?

 

Our only saving grace is that they get distracted and start eating their own—the ones you just killed in front of them. They’re not the pickiest eaters and won’t pass on a free meal, but the fresher the meat the better they like it.

 

But that will only slow down the inevitable, as there are still so many behind them that will continue to push forward to sustain the hunger of the swarm.   Like ants taking down a scorpion, they simply overwhelm everything before them, cutting and hacking their way to feed on all that is living.

 

As the new day dawns, the city becomes quiet again as they seep back into their holes and the safety of darkness to sleep off their night of madness.

 

Standing at the subway entrance in the middle of the city, you can already smell the stench of death that rises from below. Now you start to feel your common sense urging you to turn back before you’re too deep into this shit hole!

 

Finally, Mason broke the silence that has held us captive for so long. “Ok people, this is the way in! I know we’re all thinking the same thing, but this is not the time to back out. That chance came and went back at the Command Shack. You’re in it now and you better be in it to win! Let’s Go! Daggert, you take point; Boomer, you take the rear; and Walker, you’re with me!”

 

Mason had me strap my gun and told me to use my machete for now, as we did not want to announce our arrival any sooner than we needed to. He assured me that they only act as a hoard when they are actively hunting, but setting them off in the darkness of the tunnels will ignite a fire storm of feeding vermin.

 

When Crazies are in their down mode they keep to smaller groupings, unless you find the main den. It works like a hive in that the outer parameter will be less populated than the inner workings of the hive.

 

Our best defense at this point will be the torches we took along. The flame will blind the Crazies, making them easy to hack up with the machete. If, for any reason, I can’t handle the numbers, Mason and Walker will move up to fill the void. If that isn’t sufficient, then Boomer will announce our arrival by stepping in with his weapon of choice, a tactical pump shotgun.

 

At that point, all hell will break loose and our chances of ever seeing the light of day again will likely drop to zero.

 

Other than that, each of us is carrying C-4 and if we have to, we’ve all agreed that we’ll bring down the roof on all of us! It’s a no-win situation, but at least the damn Skank’s will go with us. Got to try and take out as many as we can with the hope of hedging the spread of this filthy breed as they continue to encroach upon more and more of the city.

 

I guess, if we fail the mission, you can simply consider us pest control.

 

Chapter 4 – Only One Way In and No Way Out

 

As I entered the subway steps leading down, the light of the day seeped down but dissipated very quickly into the darkness. The only way to press on was to light a torch.

 

As the light filtered through the darkness in the immediate area I held it up to, I could see only decay of a time long ago. I could hear water constantly seeping its way down into pools that collected from above. I wondered how long it had been since a man of sound mind had dared walk these corridors.

 

According to the map we were making our way down to the C Line Station. We made our way down to where many used to wait to go to and from their homes and work places.

 

I was making my way across the waiting platform when, from behind a pillar, I heard a noise and turned, leading with the torch, A muffled, but intense, shriek of pain ensued. Arms which were just reaching out to grab me a second ago were flying up to protect their eyes from the light. Reflex kicked in and the machete was already slicing open the Crazies’ gut, spilling out his innards!

 

“Damn! That was too darn close! In my face before I even knew it! Way too close for comfort. Shit, that really will shake a person up. Guess I’m awake now!” I blurted out all at once.

 

As we approached the tracks the old subway trains used to run on, Mason, Walker and Boomer all gathered around. “Damn, John, that was close.” Alley said as she came up alongside me and gave a pat to my shoulder. “Glad to see you’re still with us; don’t want to lose anybody this early in the game.”

 

Mason agreed, “We have a long way to go yet and in order to get through this we are going to need each other throughout the whole thing, or we are going to be out of the game altogether”.

 

Mason noted that the waiting platform was expansive, which worked to our disadvantage given the amount we could see around us with our torches. “From here we move in ‘diamond formation,’ everybody covers everybody’s six. We move as one for now until the terrain dictates different.”

 

Now the light of our torches combined lit more of the area around us, and allowed us to see further than we could by ourselves.

 

No sooner had we grouped together when Walker was attacked from the right, but she went on the aggressive and hacked the Crazies’ arms off at the elbows as they reached out for her and, in the next motion, sliced the torso open from armpit to armpit!

 

Simultaneously, Boomer took off three more Crazies’ heads with two strokes to the good. Then Walker was attacked again; she rolled down and across, taking another Crazy out at the ankles, coming up on her feet and dropping with a major down thrust, sinking her machete in the Crazies’ chest.

 

“Feeling a little left out, Mason?” Alley smiled.

“Not today,” Mason replied, “Just glad to see you all have it handled for the time being. Damn Walker, you’re a straight out bad ass! Remind me not to ever piss you off!”

 

Then Boomer asked, “Is it going to be like this the whole way? I don’t think we got twenty feet and were attacked three times already; a fourth if you count John’s attack up on the landing.”

 

“It should be better up ahead when we reach the service tunnels. The Crazies don’t use them as they have been pretty much sealed off since before the power was lost. We are only aware of them because of the map we acquired, showing where and how to access them. Once inside we can lock the door behind us and it should be an easy slog from there to the bowels of the city,” Mason replied.

 

Just as Mason finished, we were attacked again by five more Crazies, which we hacked up in short order. “Damn, let’s get to that service tunnel before we have to take on the whole subway full of these freaks,” Walker stated.

 

Mason replied, “Should be just up ahead on the right, a small crag in the tunnel wall. I only have a mark on the map to identify it.”

 

“I’ve got it, I think, but it’s a tight squeeze.” I signaled. “We’ll have to take off our packs and pass them through. We’ll never make it through with them on.”

 

Mason asked, “What does it look like, John?”

 

“Looks as though an old service hall was bricked over. There is some damage that exposed the hall, but it looks to have a locked service door about 10 feet in off the main subway tunnel. At least we can all be less exposed in there while we figure out how to get through that door, verses hanging out here on the tracks totally exposed,” I replied.

 

Once inside, I checked the door and, sure enough, it was locked, which is probably why the Crazies don’t use these service tunnels as they were all locked or sealed up long ago.

 

If not for these service tunnels that this new map has exposed, I doubt this mission would stand any chance of even seeing the deeper regions. Hell, we probably wouldn’t even get another 100 feet down the C tunnel we just stepped out of.

 

Alley chimed in, “Step aside fellows, this is where I live! There isn’t a lock I can’t pick.” With that she reached into her chest pocket and pulled out a lock pick set and began to go to work on the lock.

 

“Hey fellows, I hate to rush you but we have company coming our way.” Boomer pointed out as he was keeping an eye on our six.

 

Luckily for us the small opening in the tunnel wall to the hall we were standing in would make a group attack on us impossible. On the other hand, if we could not get the door open we were trapped like pigs to the slaughter. Steve: this expression doesn’t really fit – can you think of something better?

 

As the Crazies tried to get to us through the crack in the wall, Boomer would simply drive his machete into the Crazy plugging the broken away brick crack and they would fall back into the hungry group forming outside our little covey.

 

Boomer informed us that he was creating quite the drive-in out there, as the crowd was finding quite the dinner piling up. The crowd to growing with each new Crazy Boomer skewered with his machete. “At least with every Crazy we send back to Hell, we gain experience and skill,” Boomer enlightened us.

 

I replied, “Yeah, I suppose we are going to become pretty proficient at killing Crazies after this!”

 

“Got it!” Walker declared, “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

As we slipped through the door, we locked it tight behind us. We now realized there was no turning back. The quiet that now engulfed us was refreshing after the madness we endured just on the other side of that door, which now served as the only barrier between us and the amassing hoard we left behind.

 

Now we could only keep going forward, which would take us deeper and farther from the sunlight and all that is familiar to us.

 

Chapter 5 – Down the Rabbit Hole

 

We found ourselves cramped into another 10 foot section of a hallway with no exit. Mason said, “The map shows this service entrance is connected to a tunnel straight ahead of us.”

 

Boomer moved forward and stated, with purpose, “Step aside, and I will see what lies hidden behind that wall!” As he began to kick the wall, plaster began to fall away revealing a brick wall behind. The wall was starting to give way to Boomer’s pounding kicks until he inevitably busted through.

 

Mason stepped into the opening Boomer had just made and stretched out his torch to reveal a much narrower tunnel. The tunnel was all plastered over and smooth, with the exception of patches that had fallen away over the years revealing that the whole of this tunnel is made of brick. “Daggert, you’re back on point. Lead the way.” Mason motioned.

 

Continuing in, you could see some of the brick had fallen from the ceiling of the tunnel, allowing some dirt to be exposed. All in all, I would say that it was still in fairly good shape, most likely as no one had used these service tunnels for decades.

 

“Not really too sure how safe this is.” Boomer stated. He was thinking about how much dirt was above us and how old this brick tunnel must be, only held together by brittle mortar and a thin coat of plaster.

 

Looking back, Walker had to laugh as she blurted out, “Damn, Boomer, maybe we should have had someone bring up the rear just in case you need a shove!”

 

Mason and I turned to look at what Walker was referring to and noticed that Boomer filled the whole tunnel with his great bulk, with only inches to spare on all sides.

 

“Better hope this baby doesn’t get any tighter or Boomer will be in a pinch.” Mason quipped.

 

As I lead the group down the tunnel, it began to slope downward, becoming steeper as we went, until it became hard to keep your footing. Of course, Boomer could just flex his shoulders and he could easily put on the brakes. For me, it is almost easier to slide down on my ass at this point.

 

Thankfully, the tunnel leveled out before sliding on my butt became an obvious conclusion. After about another 50 feet, the tunnel finally opened up into a junction area where two more tunnels joined with this one.

 

The junction was about 10 feet by 20 feet. Our tunnel came in at one end of the junction room and another tunnel, the same shape as the one we came out of, continued on at the far side of the junction room. On the long wall to the right was a ladder which leads up to a hatch. On the opposite side was a finished round tunnel with a walkway about 3 feet wide on the bottom. The walls seemed to have been tiled with 4” square white tiles, giving this tunnel a very finished look.

 

Clearly, the tunnel ahead of us was a continuation of the service tunnel we had been following. But the round tunnel to the left was something completely different.

 

Since we were here, I decided to climb up and see what was behind the ceiling hatch. The ceiling was about 8 feet high as I climbed up the ladder to check the hatch. Sure enough, with a twist of the two turnbuckles, I was able to lift the hatch open.

 

As I stuck my head up into the room, my torch revealed several bunk beds that could sleep six, and a table area with chairs and a small burner stove. There was a small bookcase containing some books, puzzles and some old board games.

 

Mason followed me up, with Walker and Boomer just behind. Mason had heard from Shamus that these rooms existed in the old service tunnels. He had told Mason we might find some useful supplies if we ever came across one of these rooms.

 

“Apparently they had these rooms every so often so that if you ever got trapped by flooding water down here, you could take refuge in one of these holding areas until the tunnels could be pumped out and a rescue attempt made.” Mason informed us.

 

I then came across a kerosene lantern on the table; I shook the lantern and felt that there was still fuel in the lantern. I unscrewed the cap and took a small whiff and sure enough it smelled like kerosene. “Hey guys, I think I just found us a lantern we could use instead of these torches.” I declared.

 

Alley then called out, “I just found another!”

 

I had already lit the lantern I found, and it was plenty light for this small cubby. We will be sure to take the others with us as well, when we hit the tunnels again.

 

Then Boomer found some canned goods that were stashed long ago. “Think they’re still good?”

 

I responded to Boomer, “Are any of the cans bulged out?”

 

Only a couple but the others look like new except for the dust.” Boomer replied.

 

“Well, then, I say we make camp here for the night and begin again after a few hours rest. But first well see if that camp stove works and heat up some beans for dinner!” Mason interjected.

 

We were just finishing up with the beans and getting ready hit the sack when Walker stated, “The beans were good and there’s a real bed to sleep on. Never thought it could be so good down here. In fact, I feel down right safe in here.”

 

And you had to admit that it did feel secure in that upper room. But what would the next leg of this journey hold? It just seems to get stranger the further we push into this place. I mean, what a time capsule we stepped into here.

 

You could stare at the pictures on the wall of the people who must have worked down here so long ago, and wonder what life was like then and what their lives were like. All the artifacts in the room take you back to another era. This was a very interesting and fortunate find indeed.

 

Chapter 6 – Don’t Forget to Flush!

 

When we got up the next morning Alley was cooking up some Vienna sausage for the group, that she had mustered up from Boomer’s pile of canned goods he found the night before. There could not have been a sweeter aroma by which to awaken.

 

On our way out, I noticed a coil of rope in the shadows and thought that it would most certainly come in handy down here, so I slung it to my pack before heading back down into the tunnels.

 

Mason said, “According to the map, we need to go down this new round tunnel off to the left of where we came in to go on.”

 

I knew Boomer would like the extra roominess this tunnel offered over the tight one-man service tunnel we followed here last night. As we entered the tunnel, you could hear the sound of falling water in the far distance.

 

We followed this passage for about 50 feet. All of a sudden, a dim light could be seen about another 100 feet ahead. As we got closer, the noise level of the falling water grew. We could only imagine what we would find at the light’s end.

 

As we came to the end of the tunnel, the noise was so loud we had to yell to hear one another. Peering into the light, we beheld a great opening into what seemed to be a huge submerged tower. The tower stretched about 60 feet in diameter, reaching all the way to the surface. Its expanse was enormous, seemingly more so after being in such cramped confines.

 

The top of the tower was capped with a glass roof, which let the light reach down to these depths. Though the glass was dingy and coated with dirt, you could tell it was a gray day above. It seemed to be raining, as the dirt on the glass was running off to reveal more and more of the light. It continued to rain even harder and rinsed the grime away.

 

Above and below us were many storm drain openings, which all converged on and drained into this submerged tower. A huge drainage tunnel at the bottom would take the water away to only God knows where.

 

Mason pointed out, “Don’t fall into that or you will be swept away and never heard from again. Don’t know where it comes out but I’ve heard it will dump you out in the ocean eventually. So nobody goes swimming today!”

 

I announced, “We better pick up the pace! The rain seems to be getting worse, and it will all eventually be coming here. We need to get a move on before it’s too late.

>

There was a ladder running down the side from where we were to a ledge about 40 feet below us; a 3-foot-wide ledge with no railing that circled the outer perimeter tower wall.

 

Mason pointed out that according to the map, we needed to go down and across to that tunnel on the other side.

 

As we were climbing down, the volume of water was really picking up. The noise was becoming deafening! I could only imagine how far this water was carried throughout the city, to converge here in this one place.

 

Where there was once about 2 feet of water at the bottom of the tower, it is now filled to over two-thirds the height of the main drainage tunnel below us, which is at least a 10-foot high tunnel. I could not believe how fast the water was now flowing in and how quickly the tower was filling.

 

Mason and I had made it to the other tunnel opening and Walker was not far behind. But the water flowing out of the storm drains above where cutting off the path to get over to us.

 

Walker was working her way under a stream of water flowing from the opposite upper side of the tower with enough force to hit the opposite wall she was now traversing. All of a sudden, it was like someone opened a valve wide open. The water hit the wall with such force that it flushed Walker right off the ledge into the rising pool below. “Damn it!” Mason cried out. “I told you poor bastards, no swimming today!”

 

I threw down the rope to Alley and told her to tie it around her so we wouldn’t lose her. Then Mason and I pulled her across and up before she went down the tunnel taking all this water away under the city. She was OK, but as angry as a wet cat!

 

Boomer, who was just behind Walker, threw over his shotgun and pack to Mason as he could never make it past the force of the water that kept growing with every passing second.

 

He was now facing multiple storm drains that were flowing with such force that his path was totally cut off.   He tried to get around by going the other direction, but was cut off by yet another storm drain that was now in full rage.

 

“You’re going to have to tie the rope around you and jump in and we’ll all pull you out like we did for Walker. It’s the only way you’re getting across at this point.” I shouted!

 

I threw Boomer the rope and he took the plunge. The problem was that Boomer is a lot larger than Alley! We could not pull this water-logged hulk up from the water without his weight pulling us all in. In order to keep him from being pulled into the drainage tunnel, we kept the line tight until the water level came up enough for him to get his hand on the ledge to help pull himself up while we all pulled together.

 

Finally, although we were a bit soggier, we had all made it to the other side!

 

“I don’t know what is worse, those damn Crazies or this shit hole!” Walker declared.

 

Don’t get me started, but Alley in a wet ‘T’! Just sayin….

 

Chapter 7 – Hoards Come In Many Forms

 

“I hate to state the obvious, but at the rate the water is coming up, we will be swimming in this tunnel in short order!” I pointed out to the others.

 

Mason then broke the news, “Unfortunately this is a secondary drainage tunnel to handle the overflow during extreme cases.”

 

“I guess you could say we have an extreme case here!” Boomer said, as he pointed to the water now lapping at the lip of our tunnel.

 

Mason pointed down the tunnel and said “The map indicates an access point about 20 yards ahead.”

 

As we started to run down the tunnel, we noticed we were splashing in about 2” of water now freely starting to flow into our tunnel. We knew we needed to get out of there, as the water kept coming from the storm drains above. They could be draining long after the rain stops; there was no way to tell how much water would continue to drain off from the whole city.

 

The light we were getting from the drainage tower was dimming with every step we took down our tunnel, as we ran searching for a way out. Hypothermia was now a concern among us, as not only was the water cold, but it was like being in a refrigerator down here. Our fingers were getting numb and our dexterity was starting to suffer.

 

When we reached the access point, we found a ladder in the center of the tunnel leading to a hatch above us. I climbed up to turn the turnbuckles, as I had done before, but these had been rusted over and were not budging.

 

Boomer said, “Let me bust on them there handles. I’ll break the bond.” But to no avail, those handles would not turn.

 

Then Walker interjected, “Try this!” as she pulled a hammer from her pack. “Found it this morning when I was rummaging around for those Vienna sausages I scrounged up. I figured there could be a use for a big hammer somewhere along the way!”

 

“Girl, you figured right!” Mason announced, as he not only took the hammer but scooped up Alley with a celebratory hug.

 

Mason tossed the hammer to Boomer, and he began to strike the turnbuckles until he broke the rust free and was finally able to turn the handles and lift the hatch open. Good thing too, as the water was up to our thighs at this point, moving with enough force to almost sweep us off our feet and down the tunnel.

 

We all got up into the room and sealed the hatch behind us. Interestingly enough, this room turned out to be much like the one we spent the night in before. The one difference was that this room had a second hatch, again with a ladder along the wall leading up to and exiting through the ceiling.

 

This looked to be some kind of workmen’s’ room which they used to store lanterns, hardhats, rain gear and such for going down into the waterways below.

 

We decided to lick our wounds, warm up and get rested for the next leg. No sooner had we decided to have a seat when Boomer asked, “Can you hear that kind of high pitched sound?”

 

Then we noticed as we listened that, like the water, it seemed to be getting louder, or should I say, closer. All of the sudden, rats by the hundreds started to pour out of the cracks and holes in the walls.

 

“They must be running from all the water like we were” I yelled out.

 

“Quick, everyone get up the ladder and the hell out of here!” Mason ordered.

 

The rats were as ravenous as the Crazies. They flooded into the room and started to pile up, jumping on us and biting any flesh they could find. Fortunately, the turnbuckles on this hatch weren’t rusted shut.

 

Boomer sealed the hatch behind us. Now, we could only hope that we didn’t get rabies, or who knows what, from the rats. “Well my Grandpappy always said, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger,” Boomer thought aloud.

 

Mason motioned to the med packs, “OK everyone, swab your bites with alcohol, then use the iodine. That injection Trapper gave you before we left was a super antibiotic cocktail that should protect us from the worst of it.”

 

Totally exhausted, we collapsed pretty much into a pile to keep warm, as we were all like drowned rats in our own right. We could only imagine what was yet to come, as we push even deeper into this underworld.

 

Chapter 8 – Blast from the Past!

 

We awoke the next morning to find our body heat had almost dried our clothes out, which seemed to make the chill in the air somewhat more bearable. We lit a lantern and had some of the jerky we had brought along, to help fill our empty bellies and provide some desperately needed protein.

 

Mason was formulating our next move, when he announced, “We are very close to the prize! I figure it shouldn’t be more than 100 feet from the other side of that door.”

 

“Unfortunately, after that we are on our own, as the map only shows how to get to where our objective is. I figured we would simply back-track our steps to get back, but that is no longer an option.”

 

Alley offered, “Then we will make our own way back. Hell, as long as we are headed up, we’re headed in the right direction.”

 

Mason agreed, “That’s pretty much what we’re going to have to do. Let’s make sure we get some extra lanterns to shield us from any Crazies we might run into down here.”

 

When we opened the door, we found ourselves on a walkway running along some tracks that led to a waiting platform. Boomer asked, “What subway system is this?

 

Mason answered, “This is actually the original train station from the old city, before the great earthquake. Most of the city was swallowed up by the quake. When they rebuilt the city, they simply built it on top of the ruins of the old city.”

 

On the surface, it was all mostly destruction and ruins. Apparently, some of the lower regions of the city must have survived somehow as it was simply swallowed up by the earth.”

 

“This is freaky!” Walker chimed in, as it was like stepping back in time to a ghostly place long forgotten. We crossed the buckled landing platform and entered what must have been quite the station for its day.

 

Though the second story had fallen to ground level in places and there were fallen beams and pillars to negotiate, the station presented us with plenty of space to be able to move through the structure.

 

Moving in stages while covering the advance and rear, we made our way over to what looked to be lockers. If there were any Crazies visiting this area, they certainly would not have an interest in these lockers, nor the aptitude to figure out how to get into them.

 

Stashed long ago, the contents of the locker remained unvisited since the map and key were placed in there. The great quake had prevented anyone from ever returning.

 

Again Walker stepped in to open A16, as noted on the map. While she was tending to that, Boomer and I made our way to the main entrance to see what options we had in exiting the station from here.

 

One of the doors was off its top hinge and hanging crooked by the lower hinge, giving us a glimpse of what lay beyond. We couldn’t see too far, as the darkness permeated everywhere. The light from the lanterns barely pierced its blackness.

 

Mason and Walker joined us at the main entrance. They had successfully found the map and key in the locker. As we ventured out into the darkness, our lights revealed a long-forgotten section of a city street that had been swallowed up by the quake.

 

Building fronts were evident, but most were beyond entering as they were caved in and filled with dirt. There was only a small gap in the street that allowed us to explore before we came to a heap of rubble and dirt that stopped us from continuing further. It was as if half a city block was swallowed up and preserved here in time, most likely never seen again by anyone but us.

 

We searched for several hours for an exit, but to no avail. We went back to the tracks, but the tunnel was caved in at both ends of the platform. Checking back at the hatch where we originally entered this area, revealed only that the rats were holding fast to that one dry room they had invaded.

 

“Well this is a predicament!” Mason acknowledged. “We’re as trapped as the rats in the room below us. There has to be a way out? Might as well build a fire and heat up those last cans of beans we acquired earlier.”

 

As they settled in for a bit, I decided to go check out some areas a bit closer and see if we had missed something. I took a torch and headed back out to the street.

 

Then I realized that the air in here was good air. That meant there had to be circulation of new air flowing in from somewhere. We had used lanterns when exploring this forgotten place before, but I had just coincidentally grabbed a torch, thinking it would be easier to crawl around with in tight places.

 

I noticed that the flame was reaching out toward the end of the street. I had gotten down to where the rubble and dirt sloped down from the roof of the cavern to the street edge. The flame was now clearly reaching up, so I climbed to the top of the heap and found about a 4-inch hole that the air was venting through.

 

I started to dig out the broken rubble and dirt and revealed that, in fact, there was a way to get through to what looked like a small passage up along a fallen concrete beam. Almost like a chute we could scurry up.

 

I got back to the others and Boomer called out to me, “There you are! Come fill up on these beans!”

 

I called back “Sounds good to me. Plus, some good news; I think I found a way out of here down at the end of the street! I didn’t climb up too far, but I think it definitely goes through to another area.”

 

“Thank God!” Alley exclaimed. “I am so ready to leave this graveyard!”

 

We finished eating and headed out. We had lost track of how far down we had come and were not sure what part of the city we were beneath, but as long as we could keep heading up, we figured we would eventually make it out of here.

 

Chapter 9 – Christmas Came Early

 

It turned out we had to do a bit more digging to get Boomers hulk through, but we did manage to climb up to what must have been the continuation of the street we just left.

 

Damn, if we didn’t just climb our ass up through the floor of a liquor store. “You guys are not going to believe what is up here!” I shouted back at the group. And Saints be praised, there are some unbroken bottles of Scotch!”

 

“Time to celebrate boys!” Alley said with a grin. “Damn, people, this is 80 years old! This has got to be some fine shit!”

Boomer added, “I know I could sure use a drink! Toss me a bottle, John.”

 

Mason intervened, “Make it a short celebration people. Though this is a welcome sight indeed, we still have a long way to go and we’re sure to find unwelcome company as we climb. So keep your wits about you! I sure could use a drink too.” Mason grinned!

 

We made a toast and each of us packed a few bottles for the road, when and if we ever did make it back. I’m sure we all thought the same thing as we turned and looked back. What a waste to have to leave so many unbroken bottles of the finest Scotch behind. However, we all knew we would be lucky to make it back with what we packed.

 

Chapter 10 – The Hive

 

We made our way through buildings that were totally destroyed. Heaven only knows their original use. All we could do was maneuver through the destruction like a big set of man-sized monkey bars.

 

Eventually, we figured we had been climbing in what looked to have been the lower levels of an old parking garage. We rigged a gaffing hook to the rope out of some twisted pieces of rebar we found, which allowed us to work our way up the bad sections of the garage, as sections of levels and portions of ramps were collapsed. The rope helped immensely in getting past some very high obstacles that had been created by the collapse of the different ramp sections.

 

We must have climbed four or five levels, when we came to a ceiling of concrete that looked different from what we had passed through before. We must be at the point where they began the rebuilding of the city. Now we needed to find a way through this barrier that seems to entomb us.

 

As we explored the level, Mason came across a fire door. “Couldn’t be that easy could it?” I suggested. Mason replied, “You never know until you try.”

 

Unfortunately, over the years, the door had become jammed in the frame from all the weight pushing down from above. I pulled the hinge pins and Boomer found a piece of pipe to use for a pry bar.

 

With unbelievable force, Boomer drove the pipe right through the metal fire door to the other side. He then just torqued on the pipe, pushing it to the wall with all his bulk, and the door popped out of the jam and almost landed on Alley. She was quick and nimble in getting out of the way. She constantly amazes me!

 

Behind the door lay about a half flight of stairs that were all crumbled, exposing the dirt on which they were originally poured. This led up to another fire door with a bolt lock. This door was much newer and meant that it was probably part of the newer construction that took place after the quake. For sure, this was the transition junction from the old to the new.

 

Alley used Boomer’s shoulders to balance on while she picked the deadbolt. “Got it!” Walker exclaimed. As she tried the door, it opened to reveal more darkness.

 

As we made our way up to the new level, we could smell a stench of death and filth. It was hard to stomach, as there was the burning smell of urine and the stench of feces. “What the hell, did we climb all this way to come up in the sewer?” Boomer complained.

 

As we looked around with the light of our lanterns, we soon came to realize we had climbed right up into the center of the Crazies hive! “My God,” exclaimed Boomer in a hushed, but urgent voice, “We’re in the shit now!”

 

“Literally,” I exclaimed!

 

Mason barked “What time is it? My watch has stopped!”

 

I answered, “0130 hours.”

 

Mason responded, “That would mean the hive is out feeding. I think we should wire up a little surprise for them upon their return! Morgan smiled as if he knew for once he had the upper hand where the Crazies were concerned.

 

We looked at each other, glazed over with mischief grins. We pulled out the C-4 we all had packed down here and began strategically placing the explosives where we could be sure to bring down the whole place on this den of pestilence.

 

By the time we finished, it was around 0430 hours and we had set a trip wire toward the center of the room, very well hidden and not easily tripped. That way, we hoped to get the most casualties for our effort, by having as many Crazies in the main hive area as possible before the explosives were triggered.

 

Unfortunately, we had no idea how long it would take to get to the surface as we had no way of knowing how deep we still were. Most likely though, at this point we would surely meet the Crazies returning from the hunt.

 

As we left the main hall, we could hear a disturbance in the distance. We took cover in an alcove and waited to see what approached. As the intruders came near to where we were taking cover, Mason and Boomer both lit their lanterns and thrust them out and forward into the corridor.

 

About 5 Crazies were revealed in total horror of the bright light that now blinded them in painful surprise.  Alley and myself acted on the moment and thrust our machetes into one and then sliced another while countering with a spin to the last Crazy standing. We both met our target with our blades at the same time, so that the blades sparked as they dug in to the Crazy’s flesh. It was really quite a sight! We couldn’t have planned something like that.

 

Mason barked a set of orders for the first time, showing the urgency in his manner. “Quick, we need to hide the bodies before the rest return and discover we have been here.”

 

 As we dragged the bodies to a deep hole, we found Mason had one more thing he required from us. “Before we toss them over, I want each of us to rub a generous amount of that Crazy’s slime all over us.”

“Are you kidding me?” Walker rang out.

Mason assured her, “This will mask our human scent so we can better hide among them as they are coming, and we have to get by them. Trust me, I know this sucks, but I think it will be our only hope to pull this off.”

Begrudgingly, we started to wipe the slime off of the Crazy’s bleached and infected skin and wipe that shit on our clothes, hair, hands and cheeks. The smell almost made us vomit; just the idea of it repulsed every fiber of our being, but we had to survive no matter what the costs.

We could now hear more of them coming down the tunnel way so Mason whispered, “Quick, dump the bodies and let’s get to a vantage point where we can hide.”

We found a ledge just above the main tunnel way that allowed us to watch the procession as hundreds passed by under us. With all that lovely slime we had covered ourselves in, there was no way they could smell us over the loft of vapors coming off us.

“I’m sure we fit right in.” Walker whispered in disgust.”

After what seemed forever, we could finally make our way down and get the hell out of there. As we where making our way back up to the surface, Mason told us, “Kill any Crazies you see from this point forward, as its all or nothing from here on in.”

Just then we heard the C-4 go off with such an explosion that we could only hear the ringing in our heads. We were slammed to the ground with such force that it knocked the wind out of both Alley and me!

Unfortunately, we felt we had to go back and make sure our surprise did the trick so we could report back with accuracy about the casualties we inflicted on the hive.

When we returned to the hive den, we could see the carnage of the little treat we left behind. The whole place had given way and caved in on the whole bunch.

“I’d say a job well done people!” Mason proclaimed.

Walker said, “Damn straight, homie! Mess with us will you. Come get some!”

Then we heard more coming down the tunnel from behind. “I knew it was a bad idea to come back down here” Alley remarked.

I couldn’t help myself, but I couldn’t just let it lie there…. “Just like a woman, always changing her mind,” as I had a good chuckle over her “Come get some,” remarks to “bad idea”.

The noise grew louder than before, but how many could be left? We saw so many come down already, how could there be more?

“I think its time to announce we are here Boomer!” Mason urged.

And with that, Boomer stepped to the front with his pump shotgun and got ready to spread some lead. Mason and I got ready to chuck some grenades behind the front line into the masses.

Then Mason had Walker use the 80-year-old Scotch we were saving, to make some Molotov cocktails to throw into the crowd. As I was handing over my last bottle to Alley, I asked, “Could you maybe try to save one bottle?” She smiled and replied, “I’ll do my best.”

We went dark as before to give us an element of surprise. Even though they now knew something was up, the light will definitely blind them, affording us the chance to unleash our fury before they know what is hitting them.

We moved up to a narrowing in the tunnel, hoping to keep their front line compressed and more manageable for us to take on in a frontal attack pinch point.

As the hoard came within range, and I mean close range, we lit the lanterns and the blackness went bright with light. A gasping cry of pain came from the hoard as they had probably never seen such bright light before.

Boomer opened up with his shot gun, taking down all that stood in front opposing him. Mason and I started to toss grenades over the front line toward the back, taking out masses of Crazies with each exploding grenade. Walker began to toss the Molotov cocktails into the crowd and the light of the igniting fire threw more confusion into the hoard as they began to burn as well.

Mason and I would interject between grenades throws with suppression fire from our AK’s, as well as Alley singing in harmony with her AR. The only thing we had going was the narrowness of the tunnel that dictated only a half dozen or so could attack from the front at any one time.

Between Boomer’s shotgun, our suppression fire, the grenades and Molotov cocktails, we were devastating the hoard to a scorched pile of flesh, heaped upon itself. We stood our ground and must have taken out hundreds, as we were literally walking over the dead before us to keep inflicting our wrath upon the hoard.

Like a new reflex, one of us occasionally would instinctively turn and fire on single targets that appeared lingering in the midst less frequently.

Shooting, exploding and burning our way through the tunnel, we killed Crazies from the den hive all the way to the surface. We all reloaded new clips and Boomer stuffed new shells in his shotgun as well, when we finally broke into the sunlight of a new morning dawning on the city.

“Is it really over?” Walker asked in disbelief.

“I can’t believe we made it!” Boomer declared. “We’re actually back on top and there isn’t a Crazy left in sight! We own this city!”

Mason agreed, “It’s hard to believe, but we did it! We actually found the map and key and made it out alive to tell the story.”

“So Walker, I only want to know one thing?” I told her.

Yes, Johnny, I saved you one bottle of some fine ass Scotch!” Alley smiled.

We all just sat down at an old fountain which had dried up long ago and had ourselves some smooth drink. We could only imagine how we would be received when we got back to the Clan and how our lives would be different from here on in.

“We just gained Status boys!” Alley happily proclaimed.

For now, the warmth of the rising sun on our faces and the warm Scotch in our bellies, made the moment a memory to savor.

And with that, we grabbed our gear and headed home to tell a tale many would never believe. But those of us who lived through it would never forget who brought the hurt to the hive and who would now become what legends are made of!