This is Issue #24 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Search. This is the last issue in Volume 4.
Issue 24 - SearchEdit
Billie jumps up and turns the off the radio. She peeks over the shelf and looks towards the other end of the store. She can't see their faces, but she sees figures in dark green moving quickly throughout the store and shouting.
"Owens! Reyes!" a man shouts. "Smith? Colton?!"
Billie ducks back down. "They're looking for those soldiers Dwight took out," Billie whispers to the rest of the group. The fear is evident in her face. Everyone hurries to their feet, finding someplace to hide. Cole grabs Hannah's arm and leads her to a door marked "EMPLOYEES." He sees Finn exit the bathroom, confused as to why everyone is scrambling. Cole motions with his hand for him to follow.
"Over there!" another voice yells, and Cole can only pray the soldiers didn't see him. Finn tries his best to catch up with them, but his wound gives him trouble. Cole and Hannah reach the EMPLOYEES room and Finn joins them soon after. The large room is filled with cardboard boxes and metal crates. Cole guides Hannah and Finn behind a wall of boxes and they crouch down, hoping the intruders decide not the check here.
The room is almost pitch black, for there are no windows, but their eyes quickly adjust. All three of them sweat in fear as they listen to a man give orders outside.
"Search everywhere," the man says. The man is General David Reese. He stands at an intimidating six foot four, with pale skin and greying hair. He walks with his hands behind his back, calling out orders to his men and watching them the search the store. "You heard the music; they're in here somewhere."
"Um, General Reese?" says Private Tyler Munoz. "I think I found Owens and Reyes." General Reese walks over to the private, and looks to the ground. He grimaces in disgust at the soldiers’ dead bodies and Reyes’s intestines littering the floor. "That's four men dead."
"A tragedy, sir," says Tyler.
"It is. You search this store up and down, see if whoever did this is still here." The private runs off, eager to please his superior.
Colonel Dawson, a large man with salt-and-pepper hair, approaches Reese from behind with Mary in his grasp. "I found this old lady, General Reese."
Reese turns and observes the woman, who is shaking so much she looks like she might faint any second. Reese walks towards her, the pounding of each of his footsteps making her flinch.
"You didn't do this, did you?" Reese asks her, pointing to Owens and Reyes's bodies. Mary shakes her head vigorously. "Then who did?"
"Sir, sir. I don't know," Mary says.
"Let me ask you this: are you here alone?"
Mary stammers, but nothing comes out. Then she shakes her head again.
"Who are you with?" General Reese asks. She doesn't answer; instead, she just stares at him with wide eyes. "Who are you with?!" Reese booms again. The rising of the general's voice just makes Mary more nervous, and she can't make herself speak. The frustration builds in Reese until he pulls out a pocket knife. He presses a button on the side of the knife with his thumb, and a long blade emerges with a click. He presses it to Mary's neck and pushes it hard against her flesh.
"Don't make me ask you again." Still, Mary cannot summon any words. Reese takes the knife and, almost elegantly, glides it across the the old woman's throat. She collapses on the floor instantly as a private emerges with two more survivors. The soldier prods Dwight and Billie in the back with his rifle. Billie gasps when she sees Mary's dead body, and Dwight clenches his jaw.
Reese walks towards them, making the bloody knife clearly visible. "How many more of you are there?"
"Don't tell him, Billie," Dwight warns.
Reese smiles and twirls the knife in front of her face, waiting for an answer. He points to Mary’s corpse. “I won’t hesitate to do the same to you.”
"Eight," Billie admits as her eyes brim with tears.
"We looking for eight more!" Reese calls out, afterwards glaring at Billie and Dwight. "Put them in the truck." Two privates hurry over and grab Billie and Dwight, leading them out of the store. There is a large truck in the parking lot; a soldier opens the truck's double doors and stuffs them in.
Hannah, Cole, and Finn can hear shuffling outside of the room. They hear the door open and a beam of light enters the room. The soldier turns on the flashlight attached to his gun and surveys the room. All he sees are boxes and crates. No immediate threats.
With each booming footstep, they feel their hearts beat a little faster. Cole wonders about the rest of the survivors. Who's been found, if anyone?
Finn suddenly pulls out a medium sized knife that he’s kept on him since the beginning of the apocalypse. Cole looks at him and shakes his head vigorously. His knife is no match for the soldier's rifle, and he’s already injured. But Finn stands his ground and waits patiently for the soldier to reach their vicinity.
The soldier is now approaching the large wall of boxes they hide behind. Finn grips his knife tightly, waiting for the perfect time to strike. Only a few more feet...
Before the soldier can see them, Finn jumps from behind the boxes and stabs the soldier in the shoulder. He screams and drops his gun to the tiled floor. He rips the knife out of his shoulder with a painful grunt and lunges at Finn with it. Finn jumps to the left, dodging the strike. He grimaces with every movement, the pain in his abdomen reminding him loud and clear that he's injured. He runs full speed towards the soldier and rams him into a few dozen cardboard boxes, which come tumbling on top of them both.
The knife clatters to the ground, and both men lunge for it. The soldier kicks Finn in the stomach, making him scream in pain. The soldier reaches for the knife, all the while clutching his bleeding shoulder. He takes a few slices at Finn, but misses most of them until the blade makes contact with the side of Finn's face. A long, bloody cut now runs down his temple to his chin on the right side of his face.
The soldier stands over Finn with the knife. Two Privates suddenly rush in after hearing the commotion, and they point their rifles into the room. Hannah and Cole appear from behind the wall of boxes, surrendering with their hands up. Finn looks up at the soldier standing over him.
“Mitchell. You can’t kill him,” says one of the soldiers with his gun pointed. The soldier threatening Finn with the knife, now known as Mitchell, sighs and gives Finn a hard kick to the cheek.
“I know,” Mitchell replies. Still clutching his shoulder, he picks up his gun and orders Cole and Hannah out of the room, letting the other two soldiers take care of Finn.
Finn, Hannah, and Cole are led to the parking lot, where they see four large, ominous, black trucks. They are forced into one, and three privates handcuff them. Finn is now unconscious and lies face down on the truck’s floor; his mouth bleeds and the cut on the side of his face spews blood.
“They killed Mary,” Hannah whispers. They both saw the body as they were escorted to the parking lot.
“It’ll be okay,” Cole says, not even believing what he says. “Shut up,” says Corporal Ackerman, one of the three soldiers sitting in the truck with them. A Corporal Hall and Private Munoz also sit in the back of the truck.
“Fuck you!” Hannah screams back at him, her face streaked with tears. “Where are you taking us?”
“This bitch has got a mouth on her. Jesus Christ.”
“Come on, man,” Munoz says. “Leave her alone.”
“Jesus, Munoz. Don’t be such a pussy.”
Munoz presses his lips into a tight line and keeps his mouth shut.
“Where are we going?” Hannah asks again.
“Hannah! Be quiet,” Cole orders her.
“You’ll find out where you’re going soon enough,” says Ackerman. “So for now, please shut your fucking mouth and maybe the ride’ll seem quicker.” At that, the low growl of the truck starting can be heard, and they pull off onto the bumpy streets.
“Fucking asshole,” Hannah mutters.
Ackerman stands, but has to crouch under the truck’s low ceiling. He takes the butt of his gun, and, having enough of Hannah’s remarks, smashes her across the cheek with it. There’s a sickening crunch sound as it makes contact with her face, and she falls unconscious instantly.
Cole has the initial instinct to lunge at Ackerman, but he knows he can’t; he’s outnumbered and handcuffed.
“That should shut her up,” Ackerman says, as he sits back down on the floor of the truck. Munoz swallows hard, wanting to help her but not wanting to be shunned by Ackerman or anyone else.
Cole feels his eyes stinging. It’s cruel how one second he and everyone else was actually having a good time for a change, and in just a few minutes, he’s scared out of his wits again, wondering where he’s going and what his fate will be.