Camp Verde

Posted: October 9, 2015 in 03 Camp Verde
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Larry Benson, one of the soldiers protecting the Kerrville camp of survivors, heard someone screaming his name above the chaos of children racing toward the main buildings, as they had been trained to do during a time of danger. All available defenders sprinted toward Carl.

“Help! Mr. Larry!” Carl, the eighteen-year-old with Downs Syndrome, loped toward Larry as he called out, “Soldiers!” He waved his arms over his head, desperate to attract attention. “Soldiers in trouble.”

Larry was first to get to Carl with three soldiers from the on-grounds protection team close behind. “What is it?” he held Carl by his shoulders, “Calm down, Carl. Tell me what’s wrong.”

Carl pulled free and grabbed Larry’s sleeve to pull him back the way he had come, “Soldiers down under, and the monsters gonna get ‘em!”

Still confused, Larry answered. “Show us.”

Carl stumbled around to run back to the campgrounds toward the barn and livestock pens. Larry and the soldiers followed Carl past the main building and food truck, down a narrow path past the garden to the wooden fence at the edge of the barnyard. Beyond the fence was a steep drop-off overlooking a narrow country road. Larry climbed over the rough-hewn rails. Still gasping for breath, he looked down at the scene below. A rope tied to the nearby fence post hung half way down the face of the bluff.

Below, six individuals in military gear were perched on a cluster of boulders about forty feet below. The soldiers were barely balanced on the dome-shaped rocks and struggled to maintain their perch while a dozen monsters reached for them. The soldiers were trapped with no place to go. When a reaching hand got too close, a soldier slammed the butt of his rifle on fingers.

Mark, one of the teens rescued by Larry and two friends, explained breathlessly, “They heard us and started calling for help. Carl heard ‘em, and we tried, but the rope wasn’t long enough.”

Larry answered. “You did fine. Now let’s see what we can do to help them.” He leaned over and called out. “Yo, soldiers!”

The yelling suddenly stopped, and faces looked up. “We need help.” A female voice answered. “We’re outta ammunition.”

Larry called back. “Stay frosty for another five. We’re gonna help.”

“Yes, sir,” answered a female voice.

Larry gave his men instructions. Two headed to the barn, one loosened the rope tied to the post while he jogged to the pasture. At the fence, he whistled once. Bessie, a large-boned, chestnut mare with a gentle temperament, strolled across the paddock to stand by the fence. Larry pulled a bridle from a fence post and slid it on Bessie’s head. He led the horse to the barn just in time to see one of the soldiers step out with a harness in hand.

The soldier slipped the harness over Bessie’s neck and buckled the leather traces in place. A second soldier brought another coil of rope from the tack room and hurried to the fence where Mark had pulled up his twenty foot of line. Larry backed Bessie close to the rail fencing, then tied the rope to the harness. He used a square knot to add the second length to the first and tied a loop at the bottom.

Stepping over the fence, Larry walked to the edge of the overhang and tossed the coil of the rope toward the soldiers below. The first attempt fell short. One of the men reached out and would have slipped from the boulder if not for his fellow soldiers. Larry yelled. “Wait for it!”

A female voice below echoed. “You heard the man! Bailey, do the catching. We’ve come too far to screw up now.”

Larry pulled the rope back up and coiled the end again. He made another toss, but again, it fell short. Larry cursed under his breath, coiled the rope, and the rope arched away from the cliff and dropped toward the soldiers. He held his breath as the line fell and one of the soldiers reached up and caught the loop.

Larry called down, “One at a time. Put the loop under your arms, and when the loop gets tight, I’ll give the word, and we’ll pull fast, so you swing clear. Use your legs to catch yourself to walk up the rock-face, or it’s going to be a rough trip.”

Larry watched as a female soldier slipped the loop over her head and settled it under her arms. She slung her rifle and pack over her back and grasped the rope in one hand and gave Larry a quick thumbs-up.

“Remember what we talked about, Carl. Fast, then slow.”

Carl nodded then graced Larry with a broad smile and grabbed the bridle. “Bessie and Carl gonna do a good job!”

“Now!” Larry waved Carl into action.

Carl jerked the bridle and pulled Bessie into action as he ordered. “Run, Bessie!”

The rope grew taut, and the female soldier was jerked off of the rock and swung toward the rock face of the cliff. She hit the dirt and rock and bounced hard, but well above the infected’s reach.

Larry called out, “Easy now, Carl.”

“Woh, Bessie.” Carl pulled back on the bridle, and the mares slowed to a walk.

The soldier swung out, and her’s boots hit the loose caliche and scrub grass. She walked her way up the bluff, crested the rim, and Larry reached out to pull her to solid ground. He called back over his shoulder, “ Got it, Carl. Back up now.”

Carl pulled the bridle, and Bessie stopped. He pushed against the big mare and ordered with a big smile. “Back Bessie. Good Bessie. Gotta go back now.”

One by one, the next three soldiers made their way up the bluff. When Larry tossed the rope again, the two remaining soldiers began passing the line back and forth. A discussion ensued that none of those on the bluff could hear.

The infected stumbled and reached up while the last two soldiers continued their heated discussion. The female soldier used the butt of her rifle to smash in the head of an infected that got too close then pushed the rope at the male soldier again. The infected had grown more and more agitated as they watched their prey escape. The monsters clambered and climbed over each other trying to get at the remaining soldiers.

Suddenly a shot rang out when one of the infected grabbed the leg of the female soldier.

Larry glared down at the pair and yelled, “Leader, get your soldier on the rope, or I’ll leave you both down there for the night.”

“Yes, sir,” Answered the female soldier.

“Bailey, now. That’s an order!”

Bailey stepped into the circle, and the rope jerked from the boulder. He slammed against the rock face and was pulled upward, scrapping his way up the rocks, against the dirt and scrub grass. When Bailey was half way up the bluff, another shot rang out Baily looked down.

Karen Hill was kicking against a rotted hand clutching her ankle.

“Down!” Bailey called out, “Put me down!” He continued to rise, despite yelling at the men saving him. He got to the rim and pulled himself over the edge and freed his foot from the rope loop. “Give me ammo!”

Larry ordered, “Someone kill that shitbag!”

A shot rang out but missed the infected clinging to Hill’s boot. She was pulled off her feet.

Larry snarled,” Kill that fuck!”

The man fired again, and the infected fell to the ground.

“Watch it, Hill,” Bailey called out.

Hill got to her knees and yelled, “Toss the rope! Time to get the hell outta here!” She kicked at another monster trying to reach up to her foot.

Larry tossed the rope and Hill caught it. She slid the loop over her head and settled it under her arms when suddenly another shot rang out. The infected woman’s head exploded sending a spray of blood and brains out in an arch of gore. Hill jumped back and a second infected climbed over the bodies of the dead and grabbed Hill’s leg.

The sudden shift of weight threw Hill off balance. She stumbled over the edge of the boulder. The rope scraped against her face as she grabbed for it with both hands.

Bailey pulled his rifle from his shoulder and yelled, “Ammo, I need ammo!”

A magazine sailed in his direction, and he caught it mid-air. He pulled the empty magazine from the weapon and slapped the load in place. He took aim and fired. The hand clinging to Hill’s ankle fell away, and she slammed against the wall of rocks and clay.

Larry called out to Carl, “Forward, Carl. Fast!” Then he turned back to see the last soldier clinging to the face of the bluff, within easy reach of the monsters. “Hang on, don’t let go.”

Carl panicked at the yelling and jerked at the bridle, spurring Bessie into a quick trot forgetting to slow after the initial rush.

Hill faceplanted into the dirt and scraped against the rock as she rose toward the overhang at a harried rate. She bounced against gravel and dirt, unable to get her feet in front of her as she rose toward the rim of the bluff.

“Easy, Carl. Slow down,” Larry called over his shoulder.

When Hill got to the rim, Larry grabbed the shoulder strap of her pack and pulled her to safety, then turned back to the others. “Kill the rest of them, then burn the bodies.”

Hill pulled the rope over her head and pulled herself into a solute. “Squad Leader Karen Hill, sir.”

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