“Jonas, you’re on the verge of disappointing me.” Senator Parker was on the other end of the line, again.
“I’ve been here four days, Senator. The man disappeared years ago, and his trail is colder than dry ice.” Jonas answered, “It’s not just that he disappeared, he covered his tracks so well…I mean he planned this, it wasn’t like some husband waking up and deciding to leave his wife one morning and packing up a suitcase and going. He was methodical.”
“You have the best team I could assemble. Even the oracle said you could find him.”
“Don’t. Not with her and her crones.”
“You don’t approve of our resources?” Parker made a ‘tsk-tsk’ noise, “And they’ve helped you so many times! Yes, I chose you based on what Lexie told me. She said you’d find him, so you’ll find him. Unless you don’t want to?”
“I always follow my orders.”
“You don’t agree that he’s a solution!” Parker said, “Why not?”
“Don’t read more into what I said. You handle the politics, I handle getting things done in the field, I know I am just an asset, a pawn, in your game to consolidate power and I’ve attached my horse to your wagon. I’ll find him.”
“I don’t consider you a pawn. You gave me Norad, you defeated the void. You are a national hero. Don’t discount your own political power. I consider you an ally.”
“Drop it, Parker, I’m not in the mood and flattery works on you, not me. It’s been a bad four days; the locals are insular and hiding something. I’ve lost three members of my team already, that’s thirty percent! And I am in territory that, on paper, already belongs to us! If I’m taking thirty percent casualties on friendly territory it makes me think something is rotten here.”
“Something is. He’s leading a revolution. When he left, it wasn’t the departure with congratulations on a country saved and a job well done. It was in disgust that things went back to business as usual and the only way he was able to maintain control was by being a dictator, a despot. He didn’t like it and set up the three-party system before he left, ensuring that nothing would be accomplished as we all fought each other for power. It’s been five years and we’ve barely held the country together, which you’re now seeing in the fucking northern pacific hinterlands!”
“Why is he important? What do you expect him to do? Come back and rule with an iron fist?”
“In a word, yes. We need him.”
“You think he’ll be grateful to you for paving the way for his return to something he washed his hands of years ago?”
“I’m counting on it.”
“I shouldn’t have asked.” Jonas sighed, “This is going to take more time. People have been looking for him, officially and unofficially for years. My two best trackers are permanently dead, the local military chief rounded up the people responsible for the people I’ve lost and that’s just made things worse, now no one will talk to me because their loved ones are in jail awaiting trial.”
“So, spring them, you have that authority.”
“Yes, yes, and I’m sure the rest of my team will appreciate the fact that I released the men and women who murdered their companions. Even if I let the murdering bastards go, the locals still won’t help. I’m moving further north, this was a red herring, he isn’t in La Push; he never was.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m trusting my gut. You put so much faith in Lexie, so trust her and she said to use me. Do you trust her instincts or not? If so, then you should trust my instinct to know Elijah isn’t here.”
“Jonas…” Parker sighed, “Fine. I trust you both. Do it your way. Can you tell me where you’re going to look next?”
“I’d rather not. I believe there are people actively helping conceal him working in the military and government. This line isn’t secure, who knows if anyone is listening in? The less you know the less Last’s allies can feed him.”
“That would explain why no one has found him yet. Keep me up to date.”
“I’ll do my best, but I won’t be calling with this sat phone anymore. I’m sure it’s compromised. I’ll use Marla.”
“That’s…acceptable. Not ideal.” Parker said. Marla, Jonas’ assistant, had been appointed by Parker and was one of her descendants, which meant they could communicate mentally and securely.
“She’ll keep you up to date on where we are and what we’re doing. Just pass instructions, if you have any, through her. I know there are still people who think Last is alive and would like to change that. I have the Cleary’s, the Hormel’s and the Last’s all gunning for me. We need to disappear if we have any hope at succeeding at all.”
“I’ll keep tabs on you and if I have anything useful to tell you, I’ll pass it along.”
“Goodbye, Senator. Good luck in the session, I’ve heard it’s a nightmare.”
“It is, full of peaceniks and timid cowards, I’m sure I can deal with them.” She hung up, leaving Jonas to smile and think, Sure you can, Senator, sure you can.
Jonas turned toward the six loyal members of his team, Marla was not in the room, she was at a hotel back in Forks. “Okay, brothers, the stage is set. Who want’s Marla duty?”
“I’ll take her, me and Walker.” Said a plump zombie woman named, Emily. “We’ll tell her we’re splitting in three, as planned and get her to Billings before she can figure out anything.”
“Cover story?” Jonas asked.
“We cleared out a group of white supremist types up there a few years ago, Walker learned that one of the survivors had mentioned a guy that might have been Jonas. It’s sketchy. Two days into the trip, I mention you are checking out another lead and will meet us there, day three you have vehicle trouble, when team two puts in a requisition for a new jeep in Twin Falls. The four of them.” Emily said, pointing to the other four people, “Take turns calling Edwards, ‘Jonas’ and changing clothes, picking up another brother along the way if they can to help keep the charade up if anyone actually is watching from one of the other camps.”
The other ‘camps’ were distinct zombie lines. Three zombies had come to California to spread the outbreak, Elijah Last, Judith Cleary and Tad Hormel. Judith and Tad had both been eliminated, but their factions lived on. Elijah was resented for controlling fully thirty percent of the western coast’s zombies, meaning those zombies had sprung from his lips. The other two leaders had been killed, Tad by Judith, Judith by Elijah, or so rumor had it. Elijah had been fighting off assassins ever since, which led to his abrupt retirement.
“I am sure we have someone on us, but father will protect me.” Jonas said. He, and the six other zombies in this room were part of the ‘Last’ allies Jonas had alluded to. Jonas had been killed by Elijah himself; he was a direct son, sent off to Montana to spread the outbreak from California, one of many factions Elijah had the wisdom to create. They were supporters of Last and there was an entire network of what everyone believed were ‘other faction’ zombies in the military and government, working to protect their faction and, ultimately, their creator.
Parker was of the Cleary line and believed, incorrectly that Jonas was created somewhere in Oregon by a completely different zombie and, therefore, wasn’t playing politics. Half the zombies of Last’s line had used forged documents to prove other heritage, which often wasn’t questioned. When it was, things got messy. Jonas had led a couple of coverups over the years to hide the fact that one of Last’s zombies had been uncovered by another super zombie. Half of the terror attacks in the past three years had been cleanup operations. This was one of the reasons Jonas liked being in the field, well away from other supers, especially those like the Senator, who might use their abilities to force their way into their subordinate’s minds. One of Jonas’s talents was the ability to compartmentalize his memories away from such prying, which wasn’t an uncommon skill in the Last lineage.
“Alright people, let’s get to Forks, get the convoys set and enact the plan.” Jonas said.
Emily stopped him, “Jonas, this is probably it for you. I don’t know how you’ll be able to get back after meeting father.”
“I’ve played my part. I don’t feel I’m done yet. Time will tell.” Jonas said.
“Well….in case you are. It was good working with you.”
“You too, Emily. All of you.” Jonas said, addressing the rest of the team.
They mounted up and got into Forks, where Jonas assigned them their routes and vehicles. As predicted Marla was insistent on riding with Jonas, however he was firm and ordered her into the first truck to leave. His troops didn’t quite man-handle her into the lead vehicle, but she was extremely slow getting in. Twenty minutes later Jonas and Emily hopped into the final truck, at first slowdown, near a heavily wooded area, Jonas bailed out and quickly trotted up into the woods.
Once out of sight he closed down all his mental links with everyone as tightly as he could. Over the years he had had plenty of experience shutting other people out, or more accurately, shutting people out of specific parts of his mind. Now there was only one channel left open, that to his creator. He was alone, in a serene, deep green environment and, to all appearances a normal, living human male in his early thirties. The blood he had acquired over the years had boosted his abilities considerably beyond what Parker and others in the military suspected and now he was going to use them to get to Last.
Why? The question came unbidden to his mind. The answer was rote; Last is in danger and I must protect him at all costs. Protecting him even by sacrificing his own existence was preferable to letting the man die while Jonas lived. On the rational side of his mind he knew this behavior had to have been ingrained in him by Elijah, which didn’t make him one of the good guys. Or did it?
In theory, Last could see and know everything Jonas did, just by checking in, there was no need to seek his father out. So, he is calling me to him. He needs me physically present. What good would that do? He realized it a moment later. I’m not the only one. He’s calling his army. He is going to make his play.