Part 10 Volume 3 of the Liberty Schoenhauer series
By: Walter G. Esselman
Aliens let loose a zombie virus to save Earth from us.
And with zoms still occupying the City of Angels, Liberty and Uncle Danny now work to help as many people as they can.
Uncle Danny raced around the corner, and his feet slid a little on the wet concrete. Smacking into the wall of the alley, Big Mexican immediately pushed off and dove deeper into the alley.
However, he almost ran directly into a knot of zoms.
"Ahhhnnng?" moaned a zom that looked like a Paris Hilton clone, though thankfully sans dog.
Uncle Danny spun around them like a footballer.
The creatures reached out, but their movements were dull and sluggish. They started to shamble after him, deeper into the alley.
Once clear of them, Uncle Danny knew he'd be safe, as long as he didn't get cornered. Which made the big truck, jammed into the alley ahead, a bit of an issue. There was barely enough room for a flea on either side; a very, skinny flea.
Close to the mouth of the alley erupted a dread scream. It was like a bird, but it was definitely not terrestrial.
That put some fire into Uncle Danny's legs.
The truck was pointed towards him. Setting his shotgun on the hood, he managed to haul himself up, a little slower than he'd like.
"Ungh," he grunted, suddenly feeling old. Once up, it was easier to grab his weapon and climb up onto the roof of the cab.
Just as he crawled on top of the semi-trailer, he heard something.
"Guk fowe," called out a voice at the mouth of the alley.
Uncle Danny immediately dropped, flat onto the roof. He heard something race into the alley. There was a little scuffle with the zoms, but he could hear steps getting closer to the truck.
Not daring to breathe, the Big Mexican started to lift his shotgun, but the stock scraped on the roof. Just a tiny noise, but he heard his pursuer suddenly go silent.
"Hun kulong" hissed a voice at the front bumper.
Uncle Danny knew what was there. The aliens that had created the zom virus had also released these whatever-they-are. They looked like birds. Except that they were nearly six feet tall and could kick so hard, that one blow could break a human femur. In other words, cheesed off alien-birds.
Carefully moving his shotgun, he pointed the barrel towards the front of the truck and tried not to breathe.
The truck wiggled a little, as if someone were testing the bumper to see whether it was safe to climb up.
Uncle Danny had had a chance to interact with them, when the alien-birds had been momentarily trapped. At first, the birds had appeared okay, even intelligent. That is until the device in the back of their heads went off. Then, they turned homicidal.
A sound that he could now hear, a low edge buzzing.
Another voice called out from the mouth of the alley. "Riesss!"
"Inck," snapped the voice from the front of the truck.
"RIESSS!" screamed the other voice.
Muttering disgruntled sounds, the voice by the truck went away.
Danny waited a moment. Then carefully peeking over, he saw that the alley was empty of anything dangerous, only zoms. In the clear, Uncle Danny went to the back of the semi-trailer to see if the coast was clear.
Something dropped onto the semi-trailer, right next to him.
Uncle Danny swung around, but a hand grabbed the barrel of his shotgun.
"It's me," whispered his friend, Liberty Schonhauer, and she took a step back. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Where were you?" asked the Big Mexican.
Liberty nodded her chin upwards. "When you took off, I went high."
"But they can fly," said Uncle Danny worriedly.
"I know," said Liberty. "But, chasing after you blind would've gotten us both killed."
Uncle Danny stood to argue, but then he stopped. Slowly, he deflated.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Just just don't do it again," she said. He could see the deep concern on her face as she spoke on. "Was it that the one bird alien whatever?"
"Rakduson," said Uncle Danny.
"Yeah. That's what it was called, right?" asked Liberty. "The one with the red tuft on its head."
"Yes," he said.
"But the ones out there are looking for blood," she said urgently.
"I think it's that thing in the back of their head," said Uncle Danny.
"That little metal thing? Are you sure that the alien-birds didn't put it there themself?"
"When I found the alien-birds trapped in the sand," he said thoughtfully. "They seemed intelligent."
"Exactly. At least, until that thing in the back of their head went off."
"But it is going off ," started Liberty hotly, however she caught herself. "And you apologized. I know. I just don't want to see you get eaten."
"Me too!" grinned Uncle Danny, which produced a nice healing chuckle between the two of them.
"Okay, we better get moving," said Liberty.
Carefully, they climbed off the back of the semi-trailer and kept going. They were scouting for more pharmacies. But without Google, they were having trouble.
"Wish we could find just one darn phone book," grumbled Liberty softly. "I mean, they must still make them, right?"
"I don't know," shrugged Uncle Danny. "I just used my phone to find stuff." He paused, and then he added sadly. "I miss my phone sometimes."
Liberty chuckled sadly. "Me too. I had all my books on Kindle."
"Hey! Look over there!" said Uncle Danny with an excited whisper.
"Book Store?" asked Liberty hopefully.
"No," replied Uncle Danny, with a little roll of his eyes.
"Oooh, a pharmacy!" said Liberty.
The Librarian was about to say more when she noticed two zoms shambling towards them. "Let's go."
They moved at a careful pace. The alien birds hunted anything going too fast. So they powered-walked, just a little faster than the zoms.
Reaching the pharmacy, they tried the front door and found it unlocked.
"Lucky!" grinned Liberty. Slipping into the pharmacy, they both froze just inside the door and leveled their weapons. But there were no zoms inside. The pharmacy was more of a postage stamp with walls. They walked past the meager sampling of front-of-store items to the counter.
"This could be a problem," muttered Uncle Danny.
"Yeah," replied Liberty softly. She tapped the thick glass, like at a bank teller. Only small slots allowed the meds through. And even Liberty's smaller hands could barely make it through.
"Door?" she suggested.
But the way in did not have better news.
"Now, that's a door," said Uncle Danny softly.
"It looks like it's something out of a bank, or something that holds state secrets in a government building," said Liberty.
"Maybe Smalls?" suggested Uncle Danny.
"A Navy Engineer may be the only one who can get ," began Liberty.
The front window shattered.
A storm of glass showered the front. Reflexively, Uncle Danny moved in front of Liberty and he held up his big coat. She was the one who saw the alien-bird's feet hit the pharmacy floor. Crouching down, she brought up her rifle as glass pelted his coat.
"Hie Tah!" screeched the alien-bird with a white tuft on top of their head.
Liberty fired right into its midsection and it stumbled back in surprise. She hopped up.
"Time to go!" said the Librarian.
But then she noticed Uncle Danny looking at the alien-bird. She grabbed his arm and he turned in surprise.
"Go!" said Liberty more loudly.
Uncle Danny nodded quickly. They ran around the alien-bird, which was trying to get up, despite that mortal wound. Out the front door, they turned back towards the alley with the truck, dodging around zoms.
Two more alien-birds tore around a far corner and ran towards them. The alien-birds kept colliding into knots of zoms who did not stop them but slowed them just enough.
Back in the same alley, Uncle Danny saw that they were facing the back of the truck with its high end. Pulling a little ahead, he stopped right behind and threw his shotgun up and over. It clattered noisily. Inwardly he cringed at the sound, but he put both hands together.
Liberty understood and hopped up, so that one foot went in. With a lift from Uncle Danny, she got up on top of the semi-trailer. After a quick check for danger, she put down her rifle more carefully and lay, extending an arm down. Uncle Danny, with verifying degrees of success, started to climb up the back as the alien-birds tore around the corner. He did not dare look back. He did not have that kind of time.
"Hurry!" grunted Liberty.
Scrabbling, Uncle Danny got one leg on top of the semi-trailer, while the other still dangled. An alien-bird opened its beak to snap on it. Danny yanked up his leg, and the alien ran smack right into the metal door of the truck.
"Comeoncomeoncomeon!" hissed Liberty as she grabbed her rifle. They moved towards the front of the truck. "You're heavy. No pudding for you tonight."
"Hey," hissed Uncle Danny as he looked for his shotgun. "Don't even joke about that mija."
They jumped down onto the hood and Uncle Danny saw a zom pick up his fallen shotgun from the front of the truck. Using his big work boots, he kicked it in the chest, and it stumbled back. But it still had his shotgun.
Liberty and the Big Mexican quickly knocked back the other zoms.
Uncle Danny took a moment longer to climb down, because he was starting to feel his age. The zoms were shambling back when a huge shadow fell over them.
One of the alien-birds dropped into the alley and lunged at Liberty, beak open.
With no time to aim towards the bird, Liberty jammed her rifle sideways into the open mouth, right to the hinge. It could not bear down.
Uncle Danny saw that the alien-bird, with madness in her eyes, had a red tuft on top of her head. His chest strangled, but he did not stop moving. That one zom still had his shotgun.Snatching it from the creature, he lifted and aimed.
Sorry, he thought sorrowfully.
The alien-bird aimed a powerful leg at Liberty's femur.
Hands shaking a bit, Uncle Danny fired.
The deer slug missed Rakduson's body, and instead smashed through the metal device at the back of her head.
The alien with the red tuft let out a shriek of utter agony and pitched backwards.
"What the ," started Liberty.
Eyes watering, Uncle Danny grabbed her arm and led her towards the mouth of the alley.
Rakduson's scream no longer had words and she started attacking anything in a mindless frenzy. The zoms didn't stand a chance. But the moment they were dealt with, the alien scrabbled after Liberty and Uncle Danny.
Just as the two reached the mouth of the alley, reinforcements arrived, but not the humankind. Several more alien-birds came running in their direction.
"Hurry!" cried Uncle Danny, pointing away from the birds.
"No kidding," replied Liberty with light sarcasm.
Sprinting away from the alley, the alien-birds had just reached the mouth when Rakduson tore out in a frenzy. She was pecking and kicking, but with no real aim. Baffled, the other aliens quickly backed away. At that moment, the sound from the devices in their heads began to taper off.
Rakduson's device gave one last pop of electricity and went dead. The alien collapsed to the ground, shaking uncontrollably.
With the sound gone, the other alien-birds slowly came to their senses and stared at Rak in concern.
"Hun kion?" asked one of the alien-birds with a Magenta Tuft.
Uncle Danny glanced back and almost stumbled. But Liberty helped him keep moving.
"Rak's fallen," he said with horror. "I think I think she's in pain."
"It's not your fault," said Liberty.
"I shot her," responded Uncle Danny testily as they reached a side street. He looked back at Rakduson trying to get up, but she was obviously hurting terribly.
"And she would have killed me," reminded Liberty. "Thank you."
"I ," started Uncle Danny.
"You didn't know that hitting the mechanical thing in their head would do that, did you," said Liberty urgently. Glancing right, she saw a knot of zoms heading towards them now.
"I I was shooting for Rak's torso," said Uncle Danny sadly. "To kill her."
Liberty grabbed him and tried to whip the Big Mexican around but outweighed her. However, he did turn towards her.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"We need to go," said Liberty. "Now!"
Uncle Danny slowly nodded and followed her.
"Should I have shot her again?" he asked so softly, that Liberty almost did not hear him. "Put her out of her misery. Oh Lord, what have I done?"
"So!" said an Army officer with no small amount of glee. "What you're saying, is that if we hit the device in the back of their head, it really hurts'em?"
"No! We can't do that!" replied Uncle Danny sharply.
He and Liberty had been called to the Fleet's carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, for a short debriefing.
The Army officer, Tabbert, twisted his face in anger and growled. "They killed one of our soldiers."
"I know!" said Danny archly. "I was there when they killed Bordeaux, remember! But "
"No ‘buts', we're at war with these bird-things!" snapped Tabbert.
"It's just ," started Uncle Danny. "I don't know that they know that." He blinked in surprise.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Rear Admiral Cirilo, who had been mostly silent.
"What do I mean?" asked Uncle Danny, mostly of himself. He looked at Liberty, who smiled kindly.
"Just take a moment," she said to him. "Tell them what you saw on the beach."
"The beach ?" started Uncle Danny. "Oh yes, the beach."
"You said that you had captured some," prompted the Rear Admiral.
"Well, they kind of captured themselves," said Uncle Danny.
"What're you babbling about?" snapped Tabbert.
"Well, they dug a hole in the beach to hide in," cut in Liberty.
"But, wouldn't they get stuck in the wet sand?" asked Tabbert.
"That's exactly what happened," nodded Uncle Danny. "Trapped like amber."
"Well, why didn't you shoot'em then?" asked Tabbert in disbelief.
Uncle Danny reared in shock. "But they weren't going anywhere."
"Best time!" said Tabbert. "I'd have put a bullet in'em, and then brought the body back for autopsy. See how they tick."
"Shooting prisoners? Vivisection?" asked the Rear Admiral coldly. "Not exactly the Army way."
"What?" started Tabbert. "But sir there're just animals."
"No," said Danny sharply. "There're not."
Tabbert looked at Uncle Danny in surprise, and the Rear Admiral watched the Big Mexican with interest.
"They communicate, they have names," said Danny as his voice speeded up. "They understand danger, but also cooperation."
"Cooperation?" asked Taggert in disbelief.
"I gave them some water while we waited ," began Uncle Danny.
"You gave them water?" asked Taggert in disgust.
"They were thirsty," shrugged Uncle Danny.
"You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar," nodded the Rear Admiral, and he said to the Big Mexican. "Think we might be able to communicate? They could have valuable information about what we face."
"What?" asked Taggert. "A good beating usually gets the info, that's what my old captain used to say."
"Best way to get information out of a prisoner is a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of water," countered the Rear Admiral.
"That's soft thinking, and it'll get you killed," grumbled Taggert.
"Beating up someone often gets bad information," piped up one of the Army sergeants, Ruiz. "I saw it. My CO tried to squeeze information out of a witness, but the fellow just told us everything."
"See!" said Taggert triumphantly.
"No, I meanlikehe gave us anything and everything to stop the pain," said Ruiz quickly. "And the information was no good. And, after my CO got reassignedthankfullythey couldn't get another peep out of the prisoner."
"But ," started Taggert.
"That's enough," said the Rear Admiral repressively. "No one is to do anything to a prisoner that we wouldn't want done to one of our people. Now! Let's get back on track. We actually called them here for a different matter."
"What's wrong?" asked Liberty, leaning forward.
"Not sure if anything's wrong," said the Rear Admiral. "But " He reached for a device in front of him, which was flat and rectangular. To Liberty's surprise, it was a cell phone. It felt like forever since she had used one.
Cirilo continued: "I'm just going to play a small portion, because there's a lot of audio. But this call came in while you were on the Coast. And they only want to talk to you. They said it was a delicate matter. It's some hairdresser that took refuge in a science building."
Liberty and Uncle Danny looked at each other in surprise.
"Is it ?" wondered Liberty.
"Who else could it be mija?" replied Uncle Danny with amusement.
The Rear Admiral pressed a button.
"This is Renoir, we met at the Dyson Science Building. I call for Liberty Schon aagh, I am so sorry, I cannot remember her last name, but I call for her and her friend Danny for help. A help that could mean life or death. Okay, maybe that dramatic. But please, can she call?"
And this is the Last of "Liberty's Run"
until the full, unabridged book comes out.
The novel, projected for Fall of 2021, will include the first 9 episodes and 2 interludes, as seen on The World of Myth.
But!!! It will also include all of Volume 3, in which Liberty and Uncle Danny head to the Coast to try and secure an Abrams tank. With it, and the help of some soldiers, they will attempt to save Renoir and anyone else they can.
Visit waltergesselman.com to stay updated!