Liberty's Run
Part 2 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series

By: Walter G. Esselman

The office window shattered as two bullets went right through. Pieces crashed onto the SUV directly below.

Jumping out, Liberty Schoenhauer landed on top of the vehicle in her heavy work boots. Her eyes scanned the alley, but it was thankfully clear of trouble.

Of course, there were a couple of zoms lurching towards the sound of gunshots, but that was nothing really to fret about at this moment.

Turning, Liberty holstered her handgun and turned to the boy in the broken window.

"I don't wanna be lunch," said the young boy, Colin, worriedly.

"I understand," said Liberty. "But we can't stay here. Once those aliens are done licking their wounds, they're coming straight for us."

"Me," corrected Colin.

"Us," insisted Liberty.

After a moment, Colin nodded, and he let Liberty pick him up. He was not very big so Liberty was able to hold him tight as she climbed off the SUV. The moment her boots hit concrete, Colin called out.

"Up!" he cried.

Liberty did not even bother to look. Jumping forward, she carried him under the protection of an overhang. She was grateful to set Colin down, because he was starting to get heavy.

Holding his breath, she listened.

Immediately, she heard the distant rhythmic sound, which she knew to be the alien ship. The same aliens who had engineered the zombie virus, so that they could save Earth from the humans.

"Should we run?" whispered Colin.

A blue cone of light appeared from above. It covered the SUV, and then it moved away. The light lit up some zoms, who were lurching as fast as the poor things could manage.

The ship moved down the alley, and then it disappeared around the corner of a building.

"Let's go," said Liberty and she took Colin's hand.

But the boy snatched his hand away.

"I'm not a baby," snapped Colin.

Liberty whipped around. She was about to snap back, and hard, but she only just managed to stop herself. It was a kid, she reminded herself. A kid who has having a really bad day.

"Can you follow me?" asked Liberty.

Colin nodded.

Stepping out, she went to the mouth of the alley. The streets were relatively clear of zoms. Leading the boy, they started towards the safe house, but the two had not made it ten feet when they heard the octahedron again.

"Here," hissed Liberty, and they both ducked into a recessed doorway. The UFO came around the corner of a building, still searching with its blue light.

"Go, go away, come again some other day," whispered Liberty.

"Isn't that rain?" asked Colin in confusion.

"It was worth a try," shrugged Liberty with a smile.

The blue light stopped, but the octahedron did not move.

In the distance, she heard shuffling, but it was still a little ways away.

Glancing around their recessed doorway, she saw that it was brick on two sides, and a wooden door. Just in case, she tried the door, but it was locked.

"And I never learned how to pick locks," said Liberty to herself.

Suddenly, she froze. The shuffling was getting closer to their position, opposite the ship.

"I think the ship is doing something," whispered Colin.

There was a low sound—almost like a musical note—and then a red beam came out of the bottom of the octahedron. The moment the beam hit the pavement, superheated asphalt splashed up, like a pot of pasta about to boil over.

And something was coming closer to their position as the red beam moved into the alley.

"They're trying to flush us out, like birds," said Liberty.

"Is that…?" asked Colin softly.

"Company," nodded Liberty.

Colin gestured at her gun. "Can't you just shoot them?"

"We've already made a lot of noise. More sound will wake up the whole neighborhood," said Liberty in concern.

Suddenly, there was an explosion in the alley.

"The SUV?" wondered Liberty. She pulled her long knife, but it felt inadequate.

Several zoms quickly shambled past them, drawn by the explosion.

Liberty had pressed against the brick wall in front of Colin, blocking the boy from sight. She held her knife ready.

The blue beam returned to play over the street, looking for them.

A zom appeared in the doorway, walking past, as the blue light illuminated it. It was a man in a three piece suit, which had been expensive. The light kept going and moved to the other side of the street. But the creature stopped.

The zom turned and saw them. It launched itself into the recessed doorway grabbing for Liberty. She backed up into Colin, pressing the boy into the wooden door.

"Hey!" squeaked Colin.

But Liberty was trying to stab her knife into the zom's eye. Her first stab glanced off its temple. Meanwhile, it was snapping its teeth. She just managed to get her other hand under its chin and pushed the teeth closed.

However, the zom was strong and pulling at her. Then she saw another zom appear in the mouth of the door, following the noise.

Letting out a cry, Liberty pushed into the well–dressed zom. She shoved it back into the other one. While the two were trying to keep their footing, Liberty stabbed the first in the eye. It slackened and began to fall.

Liberty tried to hold onto the knife, but she lost her grip. As the first zom hit the ground with her knife, the second was already stepping over its fellow. While it had its foot up she shoved it. The zom tripped over the fallen one.

Ducking back into the doorway, Liberty grabbed Colin's hand and pulled him back out onto the street. And the boy did not complain this time that she was dragging him along.

Halfway across the street, she remembered the UFO. Glanacing right, she wondered if the red beam would hurt, and for how long.

But the street was now empty of alien craft.

Letting go of Colin's hand, she put her hand on his upper back and directed him towards the safehouse.

"This way for food," she smiled.

"Food?" whispered Colin.

Liberty put her finger to her lips, and he nodded quickly in response. The density of zoms was not so bad here. They were able to duck around the poor, shambling creatures.

Colin followed quietly, perhaps dreaming of food.

Stepping onto the sidewalk, Liberty led the boy along. She was trying to keep an eye on the zoms, but also on the sky for the UFO. She wondered how long she could keep this up.

Nearing an alleyway, she heard noises coming from inside it. She skidded to a halt and Colin looked at her curiously. She pointed towards the alley, and then towards a hiding place.

"Another doorway?" groaned Colin softly, but he went with her. The walls and doorway were all glass this time, but inside, the nouveau riche jewelry store looked empty.

Soon, she saw a group leaving the alley. They turned towards the safehouse.

Jumping forward, Liberty called out.

"Hey! Girl's uncle!" she said in a loud whisper.

The group of people turned quickly, including the tough Mexican in the front. He started to speaking in Latin American Spanish, but then quickly switched.

"What're you doing out here?" asked the bearded man with concern.

Liberty motioned for Colin to follow, and he did so, but a little reluctantly. She ran up to the bearded man.

"Uncle…Danny, right?" started Liberty, but then she saw the worry on his lined face and realized. "Oh! Your niece is okay!"

And Uncle Danny's shoulders loosened. "I was so worried when I saw you out here."

"I can explain all that," promised Liberty. "But on the go."

And she eyed several zoms lurching towards them.

They started moving and Liberty maneuvered Colin to walk next to the group carrying canvas bags. Liberty looked back at the bearded man.

"You headed for the safe house?" she asked Liberty.

"Last time I could only deliver my niece, but this time I wanted to bring food too," said Uncle Danny with a smile. She noticed that he was still looking poorly—because he had been bitten—however, he was still moving well.

"And how're you doing?" asked Liberty with concern.

"This is not so bad," said Uncle Danny.

And Liberty gave him a look that said 'Who the hell was he kidding?'.

"When I was a kid, I had cancer," said Uncle Danny. "So, this is still not as bad as that."

"You too?" asked Colin.

Uncle Danny glanced back at the boy. "You beat the C too?"

"Remission for two years," said Colin.

"Good for you!" grinned Uncle Danny. Then he looked back at Liberty.

"So, what're you doing out here?" he asked. "Being Batman?"

Liberty looked confused.

Uncle Danny nodded his chin back at the boy. "That your Robin?

"Hey!" piped up the boy indignantly. "If anyone's gonna be Batman, it's me."

Uncle Danny looked at the boy with mock seriousness.

"My apologies Mr. Wayne," he said. Then he turned back to Liberty. "So, what're you doing out here with the Dark Knight?"

As the group moved around the knots of zoms, Liberty explained her impromptu rescue mission.

"You're shitting me," said Uncle Danny.

"Aliens," nodded Liberty.

"They look like spaghetti," added Colin, and then he added mournfully. "And I used to like spaghetti too."

Liberty patted his shoulder sympathetically before turning back to Uncle Danny.

"So, we need to get to the safehouse as soon as possible," said Liberty.

"But is that best idea?" mused Uncle Danny.

"What?" asked Liberty.

"I'm just thinking," said Uncle Danny quickly. "If these…" And he said the word with distaste. "Aliens are really mad, then the safe house might not be so safe. Especially for the people inside."

"What does he mean?" asked Colin, who was probably thinking of the food.

"No…he's right," whispered Liberty quickly.

"What's right?" asked Colin in a perturbed tone.

"These things might decide to flatten the building that you're in," suggested Uncle Danny.

"But they…," started Colin, and then he went silent.

"Too bad we can't talk to the safe house," shrugged Uncle Danny.

"Oh!" smiled Liberty. "That's a great idea."

And Uncle Danny's eyes grew wide as she took a SAT phone from her fanny pack.

Liberty smiled shyly. "Sergeant Wu [really] didn't want me to go, so this was our compromise."

Soon, Wu's voice came on, and Liberty filled him in.

"You're shitting me," he said.

"That look like spaghetti," added Colin loudly.

"You know I wouldn't joke about this," said Liberty.

"Yeah, I know," admitted Wu. "But it's just…a lot."

"The question is, is bringing Colin back to the safe house a good idea?" asked Liberty.

In the end, Wu needed time to think, and they still needed to get to the safe house.

"What the hell is that?" asked one of the men. He pointed to their right.

Liberty took one look and grabbed Colin's arm.

"Trouble," she said.

Colin looked up and saw the octahedron coming towards them over some buildings. Liberty hustled him to a storefront that was out of sight of the ship.

But there were no recessed doorways on this one, so she went with a more direct approach. Letting go of Colin, she smashed the butt of her rifle into the plate glass window of a Vintage Clothing shop. The glass spiderwebbed, but did not break. She could hear the rythmic sound of the ship getting close. She hit the glass with a guttural cry.

It shattered and glass fell everywhere.

"What should we do?" asked Uncle Danny.

"I…I don't know," admitted Liberty. "Look harmless?"

And the dangerous looking man raised an eyebrow at that.

Liberty grabbed Colin. She lifted him over the broken glass and into the shop.

"Hey!" cried Colin indignantly.

Placing the boy past the glass, she moved towards the far wall watching the racks of vintage clothes. She wished it had been a nice clean Apple Store, with its clear line of sight.

"This way," she whispered to the boy.

"Why?" asked Colin, and he stuck out his chin indignantly.

Then they heard a noise deeper in the store.

"That's why," whispered Liberty.

"'Kay," replied Colin nervously as he ran over to her.

Liberty reached for her knife, but then felt a pang of sadness, remembering that it was gone. "Hey! Help!" cried a voice outside.

Liberty looked out the ruined window and Uncle Danny was waving his arms frantically towards the sky. And Liberty could now hear the rythmic sound of the UFO.

"Can you help us?" called out Uncle Danny loudly.

A blue light covered him, and then it rolled over everyone else.

And Liberty's heart pounded in fear as she watched helpless.

There was a hiss to her left. Liberty was already lifting up her rifle when a young girl—dressed like a hippie—tried to knaw her face off. Liberty tried to push the hippie girl back.

"Shoot it!" called out Colin, but she did not dare. Not with that ship out there.

Liberty kneed the hippie girl in the stomach, and—curiously—the zom doubled over in pain. Liberty hit the girl on the back of the head.

The zom hit the ground, twitched for a moment, but then lay still.

"Is…is she dead?" asked Colin.

And oddly, Liberty hoped that the hippie girl was okay.

"Let's not find out," she said instead. They moved towards the front of the store.

"You okay in there?" asked Uncle Danny from the window.

Liberty looked over and saw that he and the people were all right, and she grinned.

"That's my line," she responded.

Uncle Danny shrugged. "If we had run, they might've thought we were guilty. By asking for help, I figured they'd leave quickly."

After carrying an indignant Colin back over the glass, they kept moving.

"It's gonna get more crowded the closer we get," said Uncle Danny, while they dodged a pocket of zoms. "And we need to find a pickup truck, sooner rather than later."

"A pickup?" asked Colin.

"That way you can drive right up to the safe house, and then they'll lower a rope for you," explained Uncle Danny.

"If we're going there," said Liberty.

"True…if we're going there," admitted Uncle Danny.

They had not made it much further when the SAT phone went off.

"What about A.U.?" asked Sergeant Wu immediately.

"What?" replied Liberty in confusion.

"City of Angels U," added Wu. "We got ahold of them last week…"

"And some in the science department have a safe zone," said Liberty.

"Where?" asked Uncle Danny as he tried to listen in.

But Wu had heard and responded to him.

"Apparently the person who designed the new Physics building secretly made it to withstand a siege," said the sergeant.

"And they would have medical equipment," finished Liberty.

"Wait? What?" asked Colin worriedly.

"Don't worry," said Liberty to the boy. "You'll be okay."

"Guinea pig," smirked Uncle Danny in amusement.

"What do you mean…," started Colin.

Liberty shushed them both, and went back to the phone.

"Unfortunately, I think that's our best plan," said Liberty sadly.

"You'll be back," said Wu, but he sounded sad as well. "I should be going with you."

"It's okay," said Liberty. "They need you there. Me and Colin will get to A.U. okay."

"You, Colin and me," corrected Uncle Danny.

"What did he say?" asked Wu.

Liberty did not answer at first. She just looked at Uncle Danny in surprise.

"But can he tell little Rosa that her Uncle Danny is still kicking?" asked Uncle Danny, a little shyly.

Liberty relayed the message, and Wu—of course—agreed.

"Still should be coming with you," grumbled Wu goodnaturedly.

"Just be ready for us," said Liberty. "We're dropping off some more people, and Danny has them loaded down with canned goods."

"Awesome!" exclaimed Wu.

***

The pickup truck jolted when it hit the crowd of zoms. The people in the pickup bed were laying down, but they still got bounced around a bit. One of the tires was punctured by a zom's broken femur, but Uncle Danny still kept trucking.

Coming to a stop right behind the pickup—which Uncle Danny had used the day before—he killed the engine. Opening the side door, Uncle Danny began to climb out of the cab to reach the bed.

A zom grabbed at his coat. But a bullet hit it in the head, and it collapsed. Danny crawled into the bed as two more zoms, who had been trying to chomp on him, went down.

"Look!" said a woman excitedly.

An Asian man repelled down the side of the safe house on a rope.

"You made it," grinned Sergeant Wu.

"I had friends," said Uncle Danny, and he pointed to a nearby building.

Wu turned, and saw Liberty with her sniper rifle. Beside her, Colin was helping spot.

The sergeant gave a crisp salute and a warm smile. Then he turned to the refugees.

"Hello. My name is Sergeant Wu of the LAPD," he said. "Let's get you all safely inside."

***

Once Uncle Danny had managed to slip back through the horde of zoms, he took off running. Any real pursuit was dissuaded with bullet to the head, courtesy of Liberty.

Soon, they were all back together on the street, dodging knots of zoms.

"Well, that was bracing," chuckled Uncle Danny. He still looked ill, but was in good spirits. He slowed and then leaned over for a moment to get his breath.

"You gonna be okay?" asked Colin.

Uncle Danny straightened and squared his big shoulders. "I got this."

"If you need to rest," added Liberty.

"Let's just get to A.U.," insisted Uncle Danny. "Hard to sleep out here, but your buddy did give me this."

Danny offered Liberty a canvas bag, which was stocked full with energy bars, and other portable foods.

"Sweet," said Liberty, and she pushed the bag at Colin.

"What?" asked the boy as he reluctantly took it.

"We're going to be keeping you alive," said Liberty. "So, you get food duty."

"Really," whined Colin.

Uncle Danny started to move towards A.U., but then he glanced back at Colin.

"Come lil guinea pig," he said.

"Hey!" cried the boy indignantly, but there was a hint of a smile. But, as they set off, Colin looked thoughtful. "Are they going to poke me a lot?"

"We'll make sure it's not too much," assured Liberty.

"Do you really think they can help us?" asked the boy.

"Maybe," said Liberty. "A science building is a good place for a vaccine."

"But…," started Colin thoughtfully. "They didn't use those words."

"You mean the aliens?" asked Uncle Danny.

"What words did they use?" asked Liberty carefully.

"Anti–something," said Colin uncertainly.

"Antipasto?" asked Uncle Danny with a smile.

"No!" replied Colin with exasperation, but again, there was a hint of a smile.

"Antidote?" asked Liberty slowly.

"That's the one," said Colin.

Uncle Danny stilled.

"Wait, did he say what I think he said?" he asked.

"That we need to get to A.U., right now!" said Liberty.

-

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