Liberty's Run
Part 3 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series

By: Walter G. Esselman

"That's a lot of zoms," commented Uncle Danny drily.

The big man—who was bent with the zombie virus—leaned heavily on the lip of the roof.

"So…we're boned?" asked the young boy, Colin, tentatively.

Liberty Schoenhauer glanced at the boy and wondered if she should comment on the use of the word ‘boned'. But then, she was not certain if it really was a swear word. And, if it was, was it even a bad one?

So, Liberty looked back at the university lawn, which was covered in zoms. In fact, the poor creatures were almost shoulder to shoulder, and there—sticking out of the middle—was the new science building for City of Angels U.

"It looks like a giant upside down cake," commented Uncle Danny, when they had first seen it.

Now, they were on top of a nearby building, and Liberty was trying to find a way in.

"The building was apparently designed with a situation like this in mind," said Liberty, almost to herself. "Which means they should have a way in, off the ground."

"What about that?" asked Colin. The boy walked across the roof and pointed to a covered walkway. It stretched from the science building to the next building over.

Uncle Danny chuckled. "A bridge to safety?"

"We should check it out," said Liberty.

The next building was very close, so Liberty and Uncle Danny could easily take a long step over the gap. But poor Colin had to be carried, which he was quite resentful about.

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

"I know," said Liberty without remorse.

While they spoke about the hardships of youth, Uncle Danny looked over the edge of the roof and down onto the covered walkway. The drop was less than six feet.

Liberty noticed him climbing—a little awkwardly—onto the edge of the roof.

"Do you want me to go first?" asked Liberty.

"Naw," said Uncle Danny, and a smile played across his etched face. "If we're wrong—and this thing collapses—what're they going to do? Bite me?"

Liberty ran over to spot him anyhow.

A little ungracefully, Uncle Danny dropped down onto the covered awning below. The big man waited, but the construction was rock solid.

Looking up, he waved to Liberty.

"If you give me the guinea pig…," offered Uncle Danny.

"Hey!" came the indigent voice of Colin from above.

Once they were all on the awning, Uncle Danny took point with Liberty at the rear. Not only did the flat awning have a solid top, it also had metal pillars at regular intervals for support. Still, Uncle Danny tested each new section to make sure that it was indeed secure.

Colin wandered from the middle to look over the edge. Below them were a mob of zoms reaching up, but the awning was too high up.

A hand took the back of his shirt and towed the boy backwards.

"Hey," protested Colin.

"Stay in the middle," ordered Liberty.

"It's not like I can catch the virus," huffed Colin.

"Would still hurt if they bit you," suggested Uncle Danny.

And Colin paused to look at the zoms who chomped their teeth at him. Wisely, he did not press the issue any further.

Following the curve of the awning, they came to a door, which was slightly ajar. Uncle Danny signaled for them to wait, and he carefully opened the door. But when nothing jumped out, he swung it open.

Stepping out of the sun, they found themself on a short landing before a set of stone stairs, which reached up and down. While Uncle Danny looked up, Liberty looked down, but the stairs were empty.

"There's a big door up here," said Uncle Danny. "Closed."

"I got another one down here," said Liberty.

"There's someone," called out Colin from behind them.

Past the stairs was another small landing, and then a glass wall.

Suddenly, a man with a boundless grin ran up to the other side of the glass.

"Welcome to Casa Dyson Experimental Science Building," called out the man in a French accent.

"Wha…?" asked Uncle Danny.

"Oh, you poor kids," said the man. "I am Renoir, like the artist—but better!—at least with hair. And I am…" He gave a dramatic pause. "The Welcome Wagon."

Liberty also found herself at a loss for words.

"It's okay," said the man, Renoir. "You are tired, and hungry. We do have food and clean water. Even showers."

"How?" asked Liberty in wonder.

"Well, this building was testing a…well, something…," said Renoir with a shrug. "I don't know exactly. You'll have to ask Dr. Taggart when he arrives."

"Are you a scientist?" asked Liberty.

"Only of hair," said Renoir. "No, I was lucky enough to find refuge here."

"Wait? Not Renoir of Renoir's Masterpieces of Hair?" asked Liberty.

"Ah! You have heard of me," grinned Renoir, but then his brow knitted. "Am I such fiend, to have forgotten a patron on my little shop?"

"Oh…um…no," said Liberty with a bashful smile. "It was always…a little out of my price range."

"Well, you're in luck!" said Renoir. "I have a chair open." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "Actually, everyone's hair is already perfect, I already planned a Luah—complete with paper leis—and now, here I stand. Just earning my daily bread, as they say."

Colin looked the man up and down, taking in Renoir's skinny jeans and tight t-shirt.

"You're a hairdresser?" asked Colin.

"Oui, that means ‘yes'," said Renoir.

"I know," said the boy thoughtfully. "My Dad said that all male hairdressers were gay."

Liberty stiffened, but before she could say anything, Uncle Danny jumped in.

"Hey mijo, not cool," he said urgently.

"But why?" asked Colin.

However, Renoir laughed. "It's okay!! Really! Actually, my Papa—back in France—he asked the same thing, and you know what I told him?"

"What?" asked Colin.

"I said to my father that ‘you, Papa, are a magnificent barber, and you see old men in your chairs all day long'," said Renoir. "‘Well, I will cut hair all day too, but in my chair, will be beautiful women'. He could not argue with that one. I must say though, poor Dr. Hauser was disappointed, but Dr. Miton—on other hand—she is thrilled."

"Um, can we talk to the scientists, or head scientist?" asked Liberty.

"Take me to your leader," intoned Renoir happily. "Of course, I babble. Dr. Milton always chides me for babbling. Actually, Dr. Taggart should be here any…"

The door above made a noise like a pressure vessel unsealing, and it swung open to show a man in a complete suit of medieval armor. His helm even had a full visor.

"Well, there's something you don't see every day," murmured Uncle Danny.

"Cool!" whispered Colin in awe. He started forward, but Uncle Danny snagged the back of the boy's shirt, and held him in place.

The suit of armor began to carefully move down the stairs using the metal handrail.

Renoir laughed until tears fell.

Soon, the suit of armor reached them, stepped onto the landing and turned towards Renoir.

"You didn't tell them, did you?" grumbled a cavernous voice from the armor.

"How could I Mousier Doctor?" asked Renoir. "I have so little left to entertain me."

"It's okay," sighed the suit of armor, without any heat. "And I'm not a doctor."

Renoir sniffed. "Well…not officially. But it is such a trifle."

The suit of armor turned and lifted up their visor. Inside was a rather handsome man in his mid-twenties, and Liberty suddenly wished she had been in Renoir's chair before meeting him. Or, at least had a shower. Distracted, she suddenly wondered when was the last time she had had a proper shower, and not just stood in the rain with a bar of soap.

"Sorry about that," said the man. "My name is Miles Taggart. But you can call me Tagg."

"Who should be a doctor," insisted Renoir.

Amused, Tagg rolled his eyes.

"I was two months shy of finishing my PHd when all this happened," he explained.

"And the suit of armor?" asked Liberty, once she had found her breath.

"Someone walked in wearing this," explained Tagg. "Only person to make it in at ground level…well, at least after all those poor infected people arrived."

"Wish I'd had a suit of armor," chuckled Uncle Danny.

"I don't know," said Tagg uncertainly. "Mr. Collins—who arrived in this armor—can't look at it now without having a full blown panic attack. I kinda wish we'd managed to save at least some of the Psychiatry department before all this went down. Maybe they could've helped him."

"I hear you," said Liberty. "We just had a tattoo artist."

"I can see that," said Tagg. He nodded his chin at her full sleeve tattoos. "Are the designs Japanese?"

Liberty lifted her left forearm, so that he could see the name ‘Jamie' almost hidden within the ink.

"We wanted both form and function. So no one important would be forgotten," said Liberty solemnly. " Anyway, how did you end up in a walking tin can."

"Well, I'm one of the few people who could fit into this," said Tagg. "And still move."

"You need Iron Man armor," said Colin thoughtfully.

"We've spent more than one night discussing that very thing," chuckled Tagg.

"And you have power in here?" asked Liberty.

"There are solar panels on the roof, which give us a modicum of power," said Tagg. "But now, I need to assess who's been bitten," said Tagg.

"And if they have?" asked Uncle Danny wearily.

"They go to the first floor," said Tagg. "We've outfitted a room there with all the essentials, so that they'll be comfortable until…well, they'll have food, water and a bed."

"Do you kill them after they change?" asked Liberty wearily.

"Oh no!" said Tagg quickly. "That'd too dangerous anyhow. We used to have to push them outside, but now we just set off the fire alarm."

"What?" asked Uncle Danny.

"We have a video monitor down there and found, during an accidental fire alarm, that all the poor infected who were in there crowded to the door," said Tagg. "And, since we can open that door remotely…well, we opened the door."

"And none came in?" asked Uncle Danny.

"They appeared to hear the alarm too and backed off," said Tagg. "Doug Hauser thinks that it's because we're so ingrained to flee a fire alarm, that they get scared off." His face became crestfallen. "Now really, I do need to establish who's been bitten."

"Well, that's complicated," said Liberty.

"Once the virus is in the bloodstream, it's only a matter of time," said Tagg.

"Well actually, this boy might be the key to it," said Liberty. "You see…"

And Liberty told Tagg the whole story, from first seeing the UFO, to rescuing Colin, to where she stood right now.

Tagg interrupted only once, because the whole building had been buzzing about the UFO.

"So, you think the boy might be the key to an antidote?" whispered Tagg thoughtfully. "Okay, let's go downstairs."

"But don't we need to go upstairs, where the scientists are," said Uncle Danny.

Tagg shook his head. "We can't break quarantine right now. But I'm going to help." He turned to Renoir. "Can you make sure that Fred is available to video link?"

"Of course," said Renoir, and he took off.

"Please, let me go down first," said Tagg, and he looked at Liberty. "I haven't fallen in this tin can yet. But there's always a first time."

"Then by all means, after you," said Liberty with amusement. She gave a little bow and waved one hand towards the stairs with a flourish.

Tagg grinned at her in response, which gave her a happy warmth.

Slowly, he clanked back to the stairs and went carefully towards the bottom door. Just before he reached it, the door opened.

Not turning back, he explained with mirth. "They're watching us on camera, so that only looked like magic."

Ushering everyone into a large room, Tagg closed the door behind and it locked remotely. At the other end of the long room was another door. But between those the doors were five beds and two card tables. One of tables held canned food and water, and the one opposite a laptop.

"Oh, and the water's free of contaminants," said Tagg, playing the genial host.

"You got a really good Brita?" chuckled Uncle Danny, and Tagg smiled in return.

"Actually, this building was testing a water filtration system for JPL," explained Tagg without explaining.

"J. P. what?" asked Colin.

And Liberty was happy that he had asked, because she could not remember what it stood for.

"JPL is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," said Tagg to the boy. "They were hoping—if the water system worked—that a ship to Mars would have sustainable water. I wish we could tell them that has been a huge success." He looked at them. "Anyhow, has everyone here been bitten?"

"Not her," said Uncle Danny immediately, and he nodded his chin at Liberty.

"But I'm staying right here," said Liberty with steel in her voice.

Tagg nodded to her, and then he looked back at Uncle Danny.

"How long ago were you bitten?" asked Tagg.

Uncle Danny shrugged. "Couple of days now."

"It's interesting that you haven't changed," said Tagg.

"I feel like shit," said Uncle Danny.

Liberty stepped a little closer to peer at him.

"But I swear you don't look any worse," mused Liberty.

"He should be wanting brains by now," nodded the Colin sagely. And then the boy added. "Braaaaaaains."

"Colin," said Liberty repressively. "That's not nice."

"But it's true," whined Colin.

"I know," said Liberty. "But when someone's sick, a little kindness goes a long way."

"Okay," huffed Colin.

Liberty put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him into a side hug.

"Did I say I wanted a hug?" asked Colin archly, but he did not move away.

Uncle Danny looked at Tagg.

"So, how's this going to work?" he asked of the suit of armor. "Kid probably only has a couple of pints in him."

"And I don't want to drain him dry," said Tagg quickly. "But before anything else, we need to tell Fred. He's the unofficial leader right now."

The wall opposite the food had a laptop set up. Pulling off his gauntlets, Tagg soon had a window open, which showed an older man.

"Hello Tagg," said Fred with narrowed eyes. "Renoir pulled me out of a nap."

"I figured," admitted Tagg. "But these people saw the UFO up close."

And Fred leaned closer to the camera. "What?"

Once they had told their story, Fred leaned back.

"You're shitting me," said the older man.

"Please don't swear in front of the boy," said Liberty repressively.

"Sorry," replied Fred.

"I saw that ship up close," said Uncle Danny. "And it wasn't no Hollywood trick."

"And it has a heat beam?" asked Fred.

"Hot enough to turn pavement into liquid like this," said Liberty, and she snapped her fingers. "But I don't think they saw us come in here."

"We might not want to stay too long anyhow," said Tagg thoughtfully.

Liberty's heart jumped in curious excitement.

"Us?" she asked with forced calm.

"What're you thinking Tagg?" asked Fred.

"Is the flotilla still off the coast?" Asked Tagg.

"Last I heard," said Fred.

"Flotilla?" asked Liberty.

"There's a group of ships, naval and civilian, that were out to sea when the outbreak spread across the globe," explained Tagg. "And more sailed out to escape the mainland."

"At the very least, we need to tell them that the virus is a bioweapon," said Fred.

"We might want to keep the whole ‘made by aliens' thing quiet," said Tagg.

Liberty shook her head. "We need to tell them. If all else fails, just tell them that some crazy woman came in claiming that she saw aliens and flying saucers in geometric shapes'."

"And that they made the virus?" finished Tagg.

"Exactly," said Liberty.

"But are you sure you're you okay with that?" asked Tagg in concern.

Uncle Danny spoke up. "Actually, if people think it's just they're just mad ravings, it might spread to more of the flotilla."

"But what's so important about this flotilla?" asked Liberty.

"Last time we checked, they had a fully stocked medical ship," said Tagg. "If the boy has an antidote to this virus, then that's probably the best place to start working on it."

"We need to see if that med ship is still there," said Fred.

"I'm coming up," said Tagg.

"But…we just got here," said Colin in a soft voice.

Tagg turned to address the boy.

"I'm sorry," said Tagg. "If I thought I could make an antidote here, then I would, but I just don't have the equipment."

"You're going to make the antidote?" asked Liberty in surprise.

"Well, probably not me alone," said Tagg.

"Tagg here is a virologist," said Fred from his screen.

"Vir…what?" asked Colin.

"I study diseases, viruses like rabies," said Tagg. "Which is also why I meet everyone coming in, because it's my area of expertise."

"I don't know how fast you'll go in that suit of armor," said Uncle Danny thoughtfully.

"Oh, I'm going to have to leave this here," said Tagg and he patted the chest with a metallic sound. "Raj has been losing weight—what with the food rationing—so he'll have to take over."

"He's not going to be happy about that," said Fred.

Tagg looked back to the screen.

"Glad I'm not the boss," he smirked.

Fred sighed. "Dammit."

"Tell him…yes, tell him that—as an eminent medical doctor—he's the most qualified," suggested Tagg.

Fred's eyes lit up. "Actually, that might just work."

"Before we leave, Colin needs a good night's rest, and food!" insisted Liberty.

"Of course. We should be safe here tonight," said Tagg. "Besides, we might not get through to the flotilla right away."


The door to the stairs unlocked remotely as they were finishing the last of the Hormel Chili. Down the stairs came Tagg, clanking in his armor.

"Hey," he said. "Sorry. I forget something."

"What's wrong?" asked Liberty when she saw the concerned look on Tagg's face.

"Well, I am going to need a blood sample," he said.

"Aw man," moaned Colin.

"Sorry. But before I go calling everyone, I do need to examine your blood," said Tagg.

"That makes sense," agreed Uncle Danny.

Coling looked at him. "Are you sure it does?"

"We came in talking a lot of crazy, mijo," said Uncle Danny. "We can't blame him for wanting to make sure we can back up our claim."

Liberty looked at Tagg.

"Are you going to take the sample?" she asked cautiously.

"Oh no, no, no," smiled Tagg quickly. "Wouldn't have any idea how to do it. So I brought Sangay, he's a nurse."

An Indian man leaned around the door.

"Are you sure about this Tagg?" he whispered.

"It's okay man," said Tagg. "They're not going to attack."

Sanjay looked at Uncle Danny especially, whose etched face would be scary under normal conditions. "What about him?"

"I can stand back," said Uncle Danny diplomatically. "As long as one of us stays with the boy." And he looked at Liberty.

"Agreed," she nodded.

Looking down at Colin, she guided him towards the stairs as Uncle Danny took a few steps back, and tried—vainly—to look non-threatening.

"Is this going to hurt?" asked Colin.

Sanjay put on a disarming smile. "It's going to be okay. I've done this a million times."

"Okay," agreed Colin wearily. "As long as I don't have to look."

"I never look when they give me a shot," said Uncle Danny.

And that made the boy smile.

Sanjay, for his part, was very efficient, and soon it was done.

"That didn't hurt much," said Colin in surprise.

"Sorry I don't have a cookie, or something," apologized Sanjay to the boy. "But we ran out of anything sugary a while ago."

"He should eat some more real food anyhow," sniffed Liberty.

Tagg took the proffered vial of blood from Sanjay.

"Thank you," he said to Colin.


With a jolt, the fire alarm woke Liberty and she raised her rifle.

To be concluded in the next issue of The World of Myth! Be there, or be octahedron!


Rate Walter G. Esselman's Liberty's Call – Part 3 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series

Let The Contributor Know What You Think!

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...