In Chicago, the lights were still on. The electricity was still running and the battle for the city was over. The military had been running in sniper teams and forward observers by helicopter, putting them on rooftops and calling down missiles and artillery whenever groups of undead showed themselves, but this was more than a form of annoying high-tech guerrilla warfare. The Willis tower made too likely a target to act as a base for the zombie leaders, so they had chosen to hold up in the Art Institute instead. From there they set about stopping the solder's constant drain on the troops. The leader of the zombies had converted the main entrance into a seat of power and used one entire wing for their personal rooms, where only he and his entourage were allowed. The rest of the block was fairly well kept and looked much as it did before it was taken over.
Inside the throne room, the 'king' was hard at work. He was currently beating on a soldier who had been captured alive and brought to him, the man was very much alive and very much a bloody mess. Most of the zombies present watched with rapt attention as 'King Harry' beat on the man.
“You did not hurt me, you know. Your capture, torture, and death really was for nothing.” Harry told the man as he punched him once again in the stomach. The soldier didn't reply, his will was already broken, he was beyond snappy retorts and even words. He had not told the zombies anything and knew he was going to die, so he just endured. Harry went on, “You know the incredibly sad part about this?” he said hitting the soldier again, “You will tell me everything. Oh, not now, you are too broken up for that, but I've already infected you and you will come back once I decide to kill you. After that I will get you just smart enough so that you realize what is happening to you and so that I can get what I want out of you, then I am going to put you in a special place I reserve for the people I hate the most. I have a little spot over in Millennium Park where I keep the things I want to live in pain. I don't know how long we live yet, after we come back, but let’s find out together, shall we?” Harry backed off from the man after another backhanded slap and then gestured to a slinky woman dressed in a tawdry black bodysuit. She was wearing a single gold bracelet on one hand and was talking into a satellite phone, which she hung up. After glancing at Harry the zombie woman, Aubrey, stepped over to him and whispered in his ear.
Aubrey was his woman who got things done, she rarely appeared in the throne room but when she did Harry always wanted to speak with her. The two were not lovers, no Harry had more...refined tastes than that. His current girlfriend was in residence as always, she was also one of his bodyguards and still very much alive, he said he liked the way she moved when he slid into her, something zombie women lost in the process of coming back to life. Ella McVay had an iron disposition and moved in ways that were no longer entirely human. Harry had learned that even as zombies gained abilities from killing humans, humans gained abilities from slaying zombies. Ella had killed hundreds of zombies. Rumor had it that she was as fast as any undead walking and her bloodthirsty reputation steered most of the undead well away from her. It wasn't so much that Ella hated any zombie who was not Harry, it was more like she had a philosophy that asking for forgiveness for killing super zombies was better than asking permission to do so. Her new life suited her well, the concubine of the king. It remained to be seen if she could bear his children and form a new lineage if it never happened it would not be for lack of trying.
Harry pulled back from Aubrey, “We are done. Everyone out. Now. Except my love and you Aubrey.” Unlike other kings of the past Harry's word carried more than just a suggestion, all of the zombies in his presence were his own creation or created by his 'children,' when he gave an order they obeyed immediately. His assistant, Ramey had been dispatched to Nebraska, where the zombies he was calling from Denver had slowed to a crawl. Ramey was now on the phone with Aubrey, when the hall had cleared and Harry was certain that they were alone he said, “Well that is taken care of.”
“Harry,” said Aubrey with warning in her voice, she was looking at the wounded soldier, who was laying on the floor to one side of the throne room.
The soldier was not a threat, he was buck naked and already dying, but Harry was going to bring him back and anything he heard now could be gotten from him later. Harry shrugged and hopped off of his throne, “Do you want to do it?” he asked Aubrey.
“I've been well fed lately, but thank you.”
“Or course, but take what you will of it first sire.” With her it was always a game, she never called him 'Harry' unless they were alone. Ella was busy staring at Aubrey, the zombie woman was a mystery to her, vanishing like the wind and reappearing sporadically to upset her husband's best laid plans. The human woman was beginning to get jealous of the little seen zombie.
“I want to see what happens when you kill a human. Watch Aubrey, tell me what you see when she kills the man.”
With a small smile Aubrey said, “As my lord commands.” Her tone was anything but deferential, but she did watch Ella with acute interest as the woman approached the fallen soldier.
Bending down on one knee, Ella looked at the man and then at Harry, “You have bitten him already lord?”
“Yes, there on the shoulder, he is already infected, you killing him won't change that.”
“Slow or fast?”
Harry waved indifferently, “Just get it over with we have things to discuss.”
Ella moved in a blur that impressed Aubrey, a knife fairly winked into existence and sank into the soldier's back above his heart. The woman brought the blade up and licked the bright red blood off of it before looking around for something to finish cleaning the blade on.
“Don't move Ella,” said Harry, then to Aubrey, “Do you see it?”
What he was talking about was the swirling patterns of the life force within the fallen soldier, it was ebbing out of the man. Any mortally wounded person bled out their life force when they were killed, Harry called it a soul, but Ella was not ready to commit to that level of spirituality yet. This life force took anywhere from seconds to half a day to leave the body. If there were a zombie nearby it could trap this essence by consuming the flesh of the dead, some could be harvested by merely drinking their blood as well, without killing the human. As Aubrey and Harry watched they saw minute swirls of the colorful life energy being absorbed by Ella's body.
Ella crouched transfixed by what was happening, slowly a smile came on her face, her nipples hardened, her body became aroused and alert. She placed a hand on the corpse and both zombies watched the flow of energy increase at the point of contact.
“What happens if she consumes it?” asked Aubrey. Ella did not appear to hear her question.
“I don't know. She is squeamish on that point, I think licking the blood was just a show for you. Ella seems to be growing jealous of you.” he said softly so that his paramour could not hear him.
Aubrey shrugged, “How much longer?”
“A while yet. Let’s go to my private quarters.” the two zombies let themselves out of the main throne room and into what had been a conference room in the museum.
“Will she remember us being gone?”
“Yes, she probably knows we’re not there now, but she likes the feeling too much.”
“She does seem excited by it.” Aubrey admitted.
Harry waved the comment off, “Let's get to it. What does Ramey say?”
“He has handled the problems out west, he had contact with the last of the trouble makers today around noon and the zombie took off.”
“Was it one of Neil's guys?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, Ramey was not sure if he could have taken it out, the guy was powerful, but he wasn't there when Ramey got to the horde, the two zombies left to mind the herd weren't that tough for him to defeat.”
“Did Ramey get any information before he killed them?”
Aubrey shook her head and said, “He has only killed the girl, she died fighting him to the end. The other one was easier to dominate, but his mind is elusive, he is not one of your children. Ramey can give it orders to a point, but not dominate it so much that he can get it to tell him what it knows.” Zombies from different bloodlines could not control other zombies nearly as well as they could control their own children and descendants. This was something Aubrey and Harry had already spoken about at length, they both feared a world where the zombie lines would war with each other after the living had been destroyed. This would be especially true if their own maker, scientist Thomas Sentry were ever killed. He had the ultimate power right now, after all, every zombie owed its existence to him.
“He didn't get anything?” asked Harry disappointed.
“Just a few things, he thinks the guy interfering with our plans was Neil's second in command. And he confirmed that Neil was dead for good.”
“Well, that is something. That leaves everything between Las Vegas and Chicago open to us. Now that we have grounded the helicopters and other aircraft we should be able to do what we spoke about.” Harry had resurrected many military men and manned the air defenses around Chicago. He waited until he had soldiers scattered about the city then gave the word for them to shoot down all the helicopters and jets in the area. Only two of the dozen military aircraft had gotten away and no more teams had been inserted in the two days since. The missile and artillery attacks had been rendered much less effective without forward observers in the city to give out coordinates to the remaining military. There were still a few teams of observers in the city, but Harry was rooting them out one at a time.
“It isn't anything west of here that I am worried about,” said Aubrey.
“I know, it is the east that concerns me too. I think we can mop up the Iowans in a week or two and then decide what to do. What do you think?”
At this moment Ella stumbled into the room, her face was flushed and eyes gazed without focus looking around the room until they locked onto Harry. She had pulled her blouse open and her shirt hung loosely exposing her bare breasts as she moved towards the zombie leader, the lust in her eyes leaving nothing to the imagination.
“I will let you take care of this. We'll talk later.” said Aubrey with a small smile on her face.
Ella grabbed Harry and started kissing his neck and ear while running her hands through his hair. “It is the price of serving the people I am afraid. This is the most extreme I have seen her. Each time it gets worse when it is one of the living.”
Ella rubbed her crotch up against Harry's leg and brought one hand down to pull her pants down, revealing a shockingly white posterior.
“Jeezus, like an animal.”
“Be careful, she won't forget anything, she is perfectly aware of her situation!” warned Harry.
“I am not too worried. Have fun. And Harry?”
“Yes?” asked the man being smothered with kisses.
“We better not make any more humans like her.”
He nodded as Ella aggressively kissed the man and shoved him towards the meeting room table.