Liberty's Run
Part 5 Volume 2 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series

By: Walter G. Esselman

Liberty looked through the scope of her sniper rifle. Malibu beach was right where she had left it.

She was leaning over the bow of the boat, which rocked gently on the water. To her left was Malibu Pier, which a cheesed–off alien ship had nearly burnt down. But on the sand, only a few zoms milled about.

Twisting around, Liberty looked back at Uncle Danny.

"Looks quiet," she reported.

"That's good," said the big Mexican slowly. But he looked pensive.

"Or…do we need to abort?" asked Liberty.

The other two men in the boat, Smalls and Bordeaux, looked at her in surprise, but she ignored them.

After a moment, Uncle Danny just shook his head. "There's never going to be a better time."

"No, there won't," she agreed with a quiet voice.

Taking a deep breath, Uncle Danny gave a wry grin. "Okay, we go."

When Liberty was convinced that he was truly okay, she turned to the soldier manning the outboard motor. "Can you take us in?"

"Yes ma'am," replied the young marine, Rex Bordeaux.

Liberty's eyes went back to the beach as they closed in on the shore.

***

12 hours earlier aboard the Saulk Medical Ship

"There's a guy in a really cool uniform looking for you!" said Colin excitedly. The boy immediately looked back out into the hallway. "She's over here!"

Stepping into the door was a man who was indeed in a snappy Naval uniform. He held his white hat in one hand.

"Ms. Liberty Schoenhauer?" asked the Naval man, though he seemed reasonably certain that it was her. Besides, Liberty did not think that there were many beret–wearing, former librarians with full sleeve tattoos running about.

Liberty stood. "I am. Are you the Admiral?"

"Actually, Rear Admiral Antony Cirilo," said the Naval man.

This made Colin snicker. "Rear Admiral?"

Perturbed, Liberty looked past the naval man to the boy.

"Colin?" she said dangerously. "Don't you have some homework to do?"

The boy made an unhappy noise. "I don't wanna read today."

"Tough," said Liberty, and she pointed towards the room that she shared with the boy. "You need to have that book done by Friday, and next week, Uncle Danny is going to start you on Spanish as well."

"Can I at least go up on deck to read?" asked Colin.

"You can," allowed Liberty. "But hold on to that book carefully. It gets windy up there. And I have more than one copy of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'."

Colin sighed melodramatically and left.

Liberty turned back to the Rear Admiral. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay," smiled the Naval man. "I raised a few kids myself." And for a moment, a dark shadow crept across his face. However, it disappeared quickly.

Liberty was getting used to seeing grief, but had found that the social etiquette here was not to pry. If someone wants to talk, they will bring it up.

"Can I help you?" she asked instead.

"I'm hoping so," said Rear Admiral Cirilo. "News of your dramatic escape has been running through the fleet."

In truth, the vast flotilla of ships only had a handful of U.S. Naval vessels—including the Medical Ship that they were on, and the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The rest of the floatilla consisted of a mish–mash of ships, but people still generally referred to it as 'the fleet'.

"We need your help," he continued.

"How so?" asked Liberty wearily.

"After I took command of the fleet, I repurposed almost all the soldiers at my command to serve as peace officers," said the Rear Admiral. "It was chaos at first, with no real authority, so I had to take control."

"So, we're under military rule," said Liberty carefully.

"For the moment," nodded the Rear Admiral. "But we really need to change that—create a more democratic process—but…but we're getting off–topic. I need soldiers."

"Am I being drafted?" asked Liberty wearily.

The Rear Admiral shook his head.

"Nothing that dramatic," he said. "I understand that you were able to navigate the streets of L.A. pretty handily."

"Well, more or less," said Liberty. "And I had help."

"Uncle Danny, correct?" asked the Rear Admiral. "Is he your uncle?"

Liberty chuckled. "He's uncle to a little girl that I helped him save, but not to any of us. However, we took to calling him that, and it stuck."

"Ah! That makes sense. Well, is he around?" asked the Rear Admiral.

"Dr. Tagg is trying to keep his zombie virus at bay," said Liberty.

"So, he really does have it," said the Rear Admiral.

"Yes. But he's held it off so far. But why do you need to see him?" asked Liberty protectively.

"I was hoping that the two of you could help us," said the Rear Admiral.

***

The moment the boat hit sand, Liberty was up and over the bow. She dropped down and brought her rifle up. But there were still only a few zoms on the beach.

Uncle Danny, Bordeaux and Smalls climbed out after her.

Smalls spotted a nearby zom— dressed like a surfer dude— who looked from the waves to him. He quickly brought up his rifle to shoot, but Liberty pushed down his barrel.

"Wait!" said the sniper.

***

4 Hours ago

"…so that's our mission," said Liberty to the assembled team. She stood at the front of a meeting room, and tried not to look nervous. She hated speaking in front of people, even a small group. That's why she had liked being a librarian, books don't need speeches.

"Any questions?" she asked.

"So, you came out of The City of Angels," said the marine, Bordeaux. "Did you have to shoot your way out?"

"Actually…," started Liberty thoughtfully, and her brow furrowed. "I'm not sure we had to shoot anyone."

She looked at Uncle Danny who shrugged in agreement.

"Zoms ain't that fast," he said in his gravelly voice. "Thank God."

"But aren't there a lot of zoms out there?" asked Brent Smalls, the Navy mechanic.

"A city full," admitted Liberty. "But the real danger is getting boxed in. As long as we keep moving, we're relatively safe."

"But what if they get close?" asked Smalls.

"Don't engage, unless we have no other choice," said Liberty.

"Believe me," chuckled Uncle Danny darkly. "We don't have enough bullets for them all."

"I've seen people who've tried that," added Liberty.

"What happened?" asked Bordeaux curiously.

"Zombie food," said Liberty simply.

***

"It's okay," said Liberty to Smalls.

She coaxed her team up the beach, and away from the zoms.

"Just feels wrong to leave'em like that," said Smalls as he hefted his bag of tools. "Are they in pain?"

"Not that we can tell," said Uncle Danny. "Though wounding them does tend to cheese them off."

"I guess that makes sense," nodded Smalls. "I'd be upset too."

"But that is probably more of a reflex than a thought," said Uncle Danny.

"Like a knee jerk reaction?" mused Smalls.

Once they had reached the highway, they turned to walk in amongst the knots of zoms.

"Damnit!" snapped Bordeaux.

Liberty twisted around to see what the young marine was looking at. But she only saw a deserted burger joint.

"What's wrong?" she asked in concern.

Bordeaux spoke in a hollow voice. "It's really gone…isn't it."

"What?" asked Uncle Danny.

"Jack in the Box," moaned Bordeaux, and there were tears in his eyes. "I'm never going to get a burger from them again."

Uncle Danny looked like he was ready to explode, and Liberty was not at all not amused.

"Dude!" exclaimed Smalls, who was eyeing the oncoming zoms. "Is this funeral over yet? 'Cause the wildlife is getting restless."

Bordeaux wiped the tears on his sleeve. "Oh, sure. Sorry. It's just…"

And Liberty's annoyance melted away. The end of life as they had known it hit everyone at different times, and in different ways. She patted Bordeaux's shoulder and egged them on.

"It's okay," she said gently.

"So, we're going to just wander around until we find one," asked Smalls. uncertainly.

"No Google," replied Liberty.

"Now, if we do see a phone book…," suggested Uncle Danny.

"But do…I mean, did they even make them anymore?" asked Smalls.

"Over there!" called out Bordeaux.

"What this time," grumbled Uncle Danny.

"No, really!" insisted Bordeaux.

Liberty turned around and saw the young marine pointing. Farther inland, a UFO was descending.

"Hey, that's an octahedron," said Smalls.

"What?" asked Liberty.

"It's the geometric shape," explained Smalls.

"Thank you!" said Liberty sincerely. "I had a feeling it wasn't random, but Geometry was a while ago."

"That's our UFO too," said Uncle Danny.

And Liberty saw the scar in the upper right hand corner where a submarine had shot it. The damage gave it a cockeyed look.

"Wish we could see what it was doing," said Liberty.

The Octahedron was stationary for a moment. But then it rose quickly into the air and moved away from them.

"Was it picking up, or dropping off," wondered Uncle Danny.

Liberty made a noncommittal noise and they kept moving.

They did not have to travel far until they reached their target: TrueAid Pharmacy.

***

11 Hours Ago

"We're not thieves," said Uncle Danny flatly.

"Is this stealing?" wondered Rear Admiral Antony Cirilo. "I mean that question sincerely, of course if the owner is not lurching, that's one thing…"

"And we're going to specifically target pharmacies that have been abandoned," said Liberty.

"I doubt anyone at the TrueAid corporate headquarters is in a position to object," said the Rear Admiral. "And we are—very quickly—going to run short of medicine in the Fleet."

"What do we need?" asked Uncle Danny.

"Everything really," said the Rear Admiral. "Blood Pressure medicine, Tamiflu, and…well, anything we can get our hands on."

"Why us?" asked Uncle Danny.

"Because you made it through," said the Rear Admiral.

"We're victims of our own success," moaned Liberty melodramatically.

And Uncle Danny looked down in thought.

Liberty turned to the Rear Admiral.

"Can we get a moment?" she asked.

The Rear Admiral slid out of the glorified closet where Uncle Danny roomed with Tagg. The door shut quietly and Liberty looked at Uncle Danny. He was still looking a little gray.

"Do I look any better?" asked Uncle Danny.

"You look like you have a bad cold," admitted Liberty.

Uncle Danny touched the bite on his arm, which had scabbed over.

"Tagg's been experimenting with the boy's blood, to see if he can stop the zombie virus completely," said Uncle Danny. Liberty knew this, but gave him to talk. He let out a little laugh. "I mean, I teased Colin about being a guinea pig. But now I'm getting poked."

"If that means we get to keep you…," smiled Liberty warmly.

"Like a bad penny?" askedd Uncle Danny.

"I don't know about that," said Liberty, who did not get the reference. "But if you're not feeling up to going, I completely understand."

Uncle Danny chuckled warmly. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."

***

Despite being unlocked, the front doors of the pharmacy did not want to open. But Uncle Danny and Bordeaux still managed to pry them apart. Liberty slid in with her handgun, now affixed with a silencer.

The second set of doors opened easily for Smalls. She went past him and saw a zom in a TrueAid vest behind the register. The silencer helped mask the noise, so that there was only the sound of a zom hitting the floor.

"Best new toy," she grinned softly.

Closing the front doors behind them, Uncle Danny had Bordeaux and Smalls wait in the small foyer.

"We need to make sure it's safe," said Uncle Danny in a hushed voice.

Smalls nodded quickly. He held his bag of tools in front of him. "Okay."

"Sure you don't want help?" asked the marine.

"We need you to guard Smalls," said Uncle Danny, and Bordeaux nodded at that.

With his shotgun in one hand, Uncle Danny drew the machete at his hip.

"Are you going to cut off their heads?" asked Bordeaux in wonder and horror.

"Naw, it's nice and dull," said Uncle Danny. "The best weapon actually."

"What?" asked Bordeaux.

"Something sharp can get stuck, caught in a skull or a wall. And even if it's just stuck for a few seconds, that can get you dead," explained Uncle Danny. "But this…this'll just break bones."

Turning, Uncle Danny plunged into the store after Liberty.

"Thank God he's on our side," whispered Smalls.

Liberty moved to the left side of the store with her gun ready. With nothing able to get behind her, she moved along the outer wall. Tall rows of shelves stood perpendicular to the wall. However, there was an aisle between the wall and the shelves.

The former librarian reached the first aisle.

A zom lurched out, hands reaching for her.

Swiftly, a dull machete hit the zom's left arm, breaking it instantly. This threw off the zoms charge, and it stumbled. Uncle Danny knocked the zom to the ground.

The zom had just hit the floor when Liberty put a double tap in its head.

Uncle Danny and Liberty looked up quickly, in case the other zoms got nosy.

"Thanks," whispered Liberty.

"You would've had them," shrugged Uncle Danny. "But I needed to get warmed up."

They moved with Liberty in front and Uncle Danny watching the rear. A zom shopper appeared and Liberty easily took it down.

Another zom tried to charge them from behind, but Uncle Danny slammed his machete against its knee, dropping it to the ground. Once it fell, Uncle Danny hit it right in the back of the neck, which made him flinch.

"Hate that noise," complained Uncle Danny.

"Got the job done," said Liberty encouragingly.

They reached the back of the store, but there were twelve zoms waiting before the pharmacy window. Liberty and Uncle Danny backed up, out of sight.

"Almost as if they're waiting for a pharmacist, hoping to get better," whispered Liberty sadly.

"Let me take lead," said Uncle Danny.

Liberty squinted at him.

"Tagg?" she asked.

***

6 hours ago

"Stay still, or I'll take off an ear," ordered Liberty, and she planted a firm hand on top of Colin's head.

"You're cutting it too short," complained the boy.

"It'll grow back," replied Liberty, without an ounce of pity. "If that nice Mr. Renoir were here, we'd have him take care of it— both of us— but…"

A man with wide shoulders walked into the open door of the bedroom that Liberty shared with the boy.

"Oh!" he said in surprise. His voice nervous. "I…I can just come back…"

Turning, Tagg walked out, leaving a mildly puzzled Liberty.

After a second, she looked down at Colin and turned back on the electric hair clippers that she had borrowed. She was shearing the boy when she saw Tagg walk quickly past the door.

Liberty switched off the clippers.

Outside the room, Tagg leaned against the wall, obviously anxious.

"What's wrong?" asked a voice, and Tagg jumped a little.

"What?" asked Tagg in surprise.

Liberty leaned against the door. "You're acting suspicious.."

"I am?" replied Tagg. "I wasn't…I just…"

"You heard about our mission?"

"It's not that I don't trust you. I Do!" he said quickly.

"But…?"

"I….," started Tagg, and then he deflated. "I like you, and I'm worried. But I can't tell you not to go."

"That is true," she agreed gently. "But I'll be careful."

"Promise?" asked Tagg.

"Besides—here in the Fleet—there's little for me to do. There's a library on the carrier, but they already have four librarians. So, unless I want to be some kind of cop…," said Liberty, and her face scrunched up.

"Not a good fit for you?" suggested Tagg.

"Zoms, and the occasional alien, are one thing," finished Liberty.

Colin called from inside the room. "Are you two smooching?"

Liberty's spine went rigid. She looked back into the room.

"Where'd you get that word?" she asked.

"Uncle Danny said you guys need to smooch," said Colin defiantly.

Tagg blushed and he stepped away from the wall. "Um, maybe I should go."

But Liberty skipped forward and planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

"I like you too," she whispered.

Hopping back, she bit her lip with a big smile, and then went back into the room.

Once inside, her face grew serious.

"You—Young Man!—need to keep your nose out of other people's business," said Liberty.

"You get in mine all the time," replied Colin.

"That's my job," sniffed Liberty.

***

Uncle Danny gave a cheery grin. "Tagg did visit, but he didn't ask me to take care of you."

"He didn't?" asked Liberty, a little hurt.

"Tagg knew he didn't have to ask me to do that," said Uncle Danny as he sheathed his machete.

And Liberty felt a light joy in her chest.

"Naw, I just want to go first, and then while I'm reloading…," started Uncle Danny, but he left that thought there.

"Age before beauty," said Liberty and she gestured at the zoms.

Uncle Danny gave her a look of mock annoyance, but he stepped forward and cocked the shotgun loudly.

That the zoms heard.

The closest one looked up quickly and he fired a deer slug right between the eyes. As it fell, he put another shell into the chamber and fired.

The zoms lurched towards them and Uncle Danny fired as quickly as he could. A deer slug went wide.

"Shoot, I missed," he growled.

As the zoms got closer, Liberty took the back of his coat and guided him backwards down the left aisle.

"I'm out," said Uncle Danny, and he stepped aside.

In that space came Liberty, raising her silenced gun. The bodies falling was the loudest noise for a moment.

"I'm ready," started Uncle Danny, but then he saw that all the zoms were dead. "See! That's why I went first."


Continued in November, 2019's issue of The World of Myth.

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