“How is he?” Jimbo asked Red.
“Mad, angry and Insane, that kind of mad. I don’t think he realizes what’s happened to him yet.”
There were nine zombies, sitting under the bridge. They had moved over to firm ground to get off the mud, but all of them were still a mess. Bobby was the worst, but that was just from playing in the river. Five zombies from Ramey’s crew were under the bridge with them. Sue and Chuck had come down after the fight and the two Red had injured severely were also present. The woman, with a half formed body and squeaky voice, was named Nina. The man Red had throat shot was named Leonard. They had Ramey’s body too, it would twitch once in a while, but aside from those unpredictable movements it could have been the corpse it looked like.
“The active calling stopped.” Sue said. She was referring to the constant call for them to come east, to keep moving east at all costs. The signal had ceased after one last powerful urge for them to head that direction. Most of the less advanced zombies were still heading that direction, the nine under the bridge were able to resist the call to keep moving.
“I noticed that.” Red said, concentrating on pushing what was left of Ramey down into a little hole in his mind.
“You okay?” Jimbo asked.
“I don’t know. You didn’t tell me this could happen.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I still don’t get it. What happened to Ramey?” asked Chuck.
“He tried to push into my mind, you know the feeling, I watched him do it to you. He pushed in and I got this idea that maybe I should let him. Only I imagined it was like he was trying to force a door open and I put a pit behind the door. A pit with a lid. Then I let him in past the door and he fell into the pit and I slammed the lid shut. That’s the best analogy I can come up with.”
“So he isn’t dead again?” Chuck said.
Red shook his head, “I don’t think so.” Red pointed at Ramey’s body, “I think I could let him back out and he would go back. I just don’t know if I should.”
“What if his body was dead? Where would he go?”
“Hell if I know. Jimbo?”
Jimbo shook his head, “You were beyond anything I’ve ever done when you started with the ‘door’ analogy.”
“Well I can’t keep him here. He is fighting me and he is strong. I think I got lucky because he was disoriented.”
“So that brings us back to the question of what you are going to do.” Jimbo said.
The group of zombies suddenly paused, as if listening to some distant, faint sound.
“Something happened.” Veronica said, “I think someone important just died. I can’t feel the pull anymore!”
“Max came through!” Red said, gritting his teeth as Ramey fought harder to get out.
The zombies let out a whoop of joy as the leaden chains that had been dragging them ever east dissolved and disappeared. It took Jimbo a moment, and then he raised one hand to quiet everyone.
“No. I don’t think they are dead. It’s weird. Maybe they are badly hurt…but I don’t think they are out of the game yet.”
“Jimbo….Ramey is getting persistent.”
“Want to try and put him back?”
“We better disable him then.” Jimbo stepped over to Ramey’s body and leveled his rifle towards its throat. He fired three times and smiled when Ramey’s eyes opened, burning hatred at him. Turning back to Red Jimbo said, “That was just in time, wasn’t it?”
Red was still straining, he shook his head, “I didn’t put him back yet.”
Confused Jimbo looked down at the healing body and asked, “Well then, who is this?”
Ramey’s eyes roved over the band and fixated on Red. The mouth moved, working up and down like an old water wheel. Only faint sounds escaped as it tried to draw in air to speak with through the damaged throat. Keeping an eye on the thing’s hands Jimbo bent over and put his ear to Ramey’s lips. His eyes widened in shock and he sat up and said, “It says it’s Aubrey. She says you know her Red.”
Red was waging an internal war as Ramey sought to escape the prison he was held in. He nodded to Jimbo, “If it’s her ask her who I was with and who she was with.”
Jimbo leaned over to hear Ramey’s answer, “She says, Neil and Harry.”
Red nodded. “So she is in his body now?”
Jimbo listened to Aubrey answer and then shook his head, “No. Just listening in. She wanted to find out what happened to him. She came looking and he was….well she said he was empty.” Jimbo leaned over and listened more, “She kept pushing and said she could take control, she wants to know how you took out Ramey.”
“Like we know.” muttered Red. Louder he said, “We don’t really want to tell you. We like being free.”
Ramey’s voice cut through the humid air, “I…do too.” It croaked. Jimbo sat back onto the sandy shore, no longer needing to play go between.
“You do too?”
“I want out. You know who sent us. You know most of us don’t like him. If this is something you can give me, I will use it against him.”
“Some people think saying his name draws his attention.”
“I didn’t hear that.”
“It’s speculation.” Aubrey said.
“But why take the chance?”
Aubry nodded with Ramey’s head, beside her Jimbo shifted his rifle until it was inches from the side of her head.
“Where is Ramey?”
Shrugging Red tapped the side of his head, “He stepped out for a moment. He has to go back though soon. So we better keep this short.”
Ramey’s body sat up and turned towards Red. Jimbo kept his rifle barrel inches away from the back of the zombies head.
“Okay. You took him down. I need to know how. I want out of this shit. I didn’t do well following orders before I died, I certainly don’t see a reason to do it now that I am dead.”
“Where are you?”
“So Max lost then.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“What happened?” Red asked.
“I thought time was critical?”
“I can hold him for a little while.”
“A fuckload of building dropped on me. This was after I got shot.”
“By Max? No, no I bet it was that woman of his!”
Ramey’s head shook, “The woman is dead, I am pretty sure Ella killed her when she smashed her skull in. No Max didn’t get me either, it was some army fuck that shot me with a rifle. In the neck. From behind. There isn’t any honor anymore, is there? Or course I count myself luck, Harry got it in the head.”
“He’s dead? He was your second, wasn’t he?”
Ramey’s head nodded. “And I made a few others, I didn’t quite follow the doctor’s orders when we arrived in Chicago.”
“Ramey.” Red stated.
“Him, and a few others. All the good it did me. I want out of this Red. You killed Ramey and I was pretty sure I’d made him strong enough to deal with a second, maybe even a first tier child of the doctors.”
“He was strong. He wasn’t a Harry though.”
“I thought one Harry was enough. So can you do it?”
“Just on your word?” Red shook his head, “No, I don’t think so. I better put Ramey back. It’s been good talking to you Aubrey.”
Red paused, “What?”
“I can help you!”
“I know, but if I show you what I know, you can hurt me more.” Red turned away to look at the river.
Red stood up and turned around. “What about him?”
“I can give him to you.”
Laughing Red said, “You think I don’t see the bigger picture? You give me Hugh, I give you the ability to resist Sentry? Is that the deal? Well no thanks! I know how this plays out. You’ll find a way to twist this power around and come after me. After Sentry swats you down, of course. Then he’ll find a way to use it. Goodbye Aubrey.”
Red imagined a funnel in his mind, with the wide end over the trap door of the pit and the other end pointed towards Ramey’s body. He didn’t just open the trap door, he made it appear weaker and let Ramey fight his way through it, a process that took seconds.
“Red. Listen to me. I just want him gone, then we can go our own way. You’ll never have to…what?” Ramey let out a long, agonized scream as he poured back into his body. It looked like the man was fighting for control of it, trying to wrest it away from Aubrey. Jimbo was staring at the body intently.
“Now Jimbo.” Red said, “Do it now.”
Jimbo, however, was wrapped up in his own world, watching the battle in Ramey’s mind.
Veronica stepped up and with one over handed swing she brought down her cruved paper cutter blade onto Ramey’s head, ending the war in mid battle. Blood from the blow splatter onto Jimbo and he looked up in disgust.
“Well you weren’t moving!”
“I think I could have gotten him. Captured him, I mean, and controlled him.”
Chuck’s hand rose, then rose above his head. His face contorted, twisting together around his mouth.
“What Chuck?” Red asked.
“She. Is in. My head.”
Worriedly Jimbo, stood and looked around at the others, “Red, we don’t have any way to keep her out of these guys.”
“They are stronger and the power seems to weaken with distance. I bet Chuck fights her off.”
The group watched as Chuck struggled for a few minutes, then shrugged and said, “I can’t keep her out. You’ll have to kill me if you don’t want her knowing where we are going.”
“We?” Veronica asked pointedly.
“What does she want?” asked Red with a sigh.
“She is sending Hugh back to you, she says it’s free of charge. She wants your help, but if she can’t have it, she’ll still do the right thing.”
“Damn it.” Red said, wondering if this was some sort of mind game Aubrey was playing or if she was sincere. He didn’t really know much about the woman. They had seen each other a few times in Florida before heading out, but he hadn’t known her before she died.
“She says it doesn’t have to be you. Someone else can tell her, if she can convince them.” Chuck said and then wryly added, “She knows I don’t have the ability.”
Jimbo was standing near Chuck, staring intently at the man, as if seeing things going on inside his head.
“Jimbo, stop staring.” Veronica said.
Turning around Jimbo asked Red, “So you don’t trust her?”
“I don’t know her. The only thing I know is she was drawing all these zombies to her. I don’t like that.” Red answered.
“She says, she had no choice, her orders were clear and there was nothing she could do about them.”
Nodding Red said, “Yeah, I understand that. That is why I am reluctant to help, but not saying ‘no’ outright. What has changed?”
“A building fell on her. Sentry is aware she is immobile for the time being and didn’t mention anything about not learning how to block him out. He left her a loop hole in her orders. He said to take care of herself, then contact him.”
Red smiled. “So fucking smart and yet, such an idiot.”
“No, he is just very, very busy right now. This is going on all over the world and he is coordinating it.”
A chill went up Red’s spine; If Sentry is coordinating this all over the world then that means….
“He can’t be doing this world wide!” Veronica sputtered out. “That would…I mean his reach would be…well, unstoppable!”
“Maybe.” Red admitted.
“But how?” Jimbo asked. “He can’t be that powerful.”
“He never stopped eating.” Red said.
“So do I help her or not?”
Why is he looking at me to make this decision? Why are they all looking to me? I just want out… Instead of voicing his doubts he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just don’t know. Can you get into her head from here to see if she is lying?”
Jimbo shook his head, “I have a strange ability, but I am not at your level…or hers. I don’t have the range.”
“But you could teach her without being there.”
“It would be more difficult.” Jimbo admitted.
“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” Aubrey said through Chuck.
“Do you want to show her?”
Jimbo nodded, “I’ll show her.”
“Jimbo!” Veronica said in disgust.
“Fine. Do it. She can’t be worse than Sentry is.” Looking back at Chuck Red asked, “So will you keep using Chuck?”
“No, I’ll send someone with Hugh, someone weaker.”
“Alright, we’ll wait here. When you and Hugh arrive we’ll find a place to hide out for a little while until you think you have what you need.”
Chuck’s head nodded agreement and after a moment the rigidity left his body. Sagging he said, “That sucked. I don’t suppose you could tell me how to keep her out?”
Red stared at the group, “There might be a problem with that. We’ll see.”
This brought a sharp look from Jimbo and Veronica, but they said nothing.