Everything falls apart in the end
Eventually, food ran low again. By this point, they were near Truro. Truro was much larger than Stewiacke, a medium sized town with some suburbs, a central hub in the province. Jasper didn’t like the idea of using the same tactics here as they had been in the past. A larger town meant a lot more zombies. Different places should mean different tactics. Jasper took Robert aside, “Look, man, there’s way too many for the Stewiacke plan to work. We’re going to get pinned down, cut off, it’s too many.”
“It will work. You’ve only seen this a couple of times. We have done it a shitload of times.” Robert was playing with his baton as he talked, extending it, collapsing it, extending it again.
“Let’s figure something else out, a better way to do this. We need to evaluate based on the conditions on the ground.”
“Maybe I’ve been unclear, too nice or something. You are a nice guy, but you are a civilian. This is a military operation. As soon as you joined up you joined the army. Either you follow orders or you take a turn on the platform. Up to you, makes no difference to me either way.”
Jasper ended up deciding to go ahead with the plan, but to make sure he had an exit, alternate ways out of town even if they didn’t help with the mission. The setup was the same as last time, lure zombies into blind alleys, into traps. Cut them off, then take the supplies. The plan started pretty much the same, moving around, getting a crowd following them. It took Jasper a few minutes to be clear that things were not going smoothly. The numbers were larger, much larger. In fact, they were even larger than expected with the increased population. Somewhere along the line a bunch of extra zombies had shown up in Truro.
They started heading to the pre-arranged alleyway but kept finding themselves cut off. Every turn they made, there were hordes of zombies ahead of them. The six of them had learned to move well together, and Jasper kept them moving despite the route being cut off. He kept looking for an angle, for some way to get out of there. The horde was close when they hit downtown. They made it to the core of the old town, surrounded by ancient buildings, Jasper taking them on one of his planned escape routes. There was a department store, a relic of a bygone era. Jasper had been in there once years earlier with Karen, it would do the trick, at least if his memory was correct. From the exterior, it appeared to be a series of buildings, but inside it all connected. Not only that, the levels connected in weird ways. Jasper kicked the door at one end of the store open. The rest of the group had no idea why this place, but they followed. “Hope you have a plan dude. Not keen on getting eaten,” Jordan said as he ducked inside the ancient building.
“Just wait, this place will work for us.”
“K, trusting you dude.”
The first building was a single level, but there was a stairway down just inside the arch to the next building, so Jasper took it. They knocked over clothing racks as they went. The basement had more clothing, and they tore through it, crossing three more surface structures, knocking down racks behind them, anything to slow the zombies. Finally, Jasper led them up in the farthest one of the group. There was a narrow staircase leading up from there, and it had a door. The door was solid wood, enough to last at least a few minutes. Jasper pulled it shut behind them, right behind Snow. They ran up to the top retail floor. There was another door here, this one with an employees only sign on it. Unfortunately one of the employees was there already, and long dead. Snow wrapped his teeth around the zombie’s arm, pulling him to the floor and Matt spiked his head. They headed up that flight of stairs into an office area. He found what he was looking for, a rear facing fire escape, and then set all of the papers in the manager’s office on fire. The place lit up fast as the team climbed out the window and down.
The streets were still crawling with zombies, but the fire seemed to be drawing a lot of them. The group headed out of town as fast as they could. They made it out and into the surrounding woods, unobserved by the crowds of undead wandering the streets.
Travel was ridiculously slow. They had to make it several kilometres through woodland, with zombies wandering everywhere. The area around Truro was thick with them, the team was still getting cut off, still having to backtrack every few minutes. They ended up getting caught by small clusters twice and had to fight their way free. It was touch and go, One of the zombies bit through Sasha’s uniform, but missed her skin.
Finally, they made it back to base camp. There was a skeleton crew still there. Robert and Mona were sitting in the mess tent, Naomi was in the kitchen trying to make something for the returning soldiers, not knowing they were already mostly dead, and a few others were scattered around. Jasper came in, strode straight to Robert and punched him. Robert fell on his back, but rolled back to his feet without pausing, “What the fuck?”
“I told you. Too many, far, far too many. They cut us off, the plan didn’t stand a chance.”
“You made it back, you left your unit, and you came back? You fucking chickenshit. That’s desertion.”
“Fuck you! The plan failed. All of them are dead. We should be dead.”
Matt, Jordan, Candice, and Sasha were standing behind Jasper, visibly lending him the weight of their support. Something had changed when Jasper got them out of Truro alive, they were with him. Naomi came out from behind the kitchen area and stood with them as well.
Robert pulled a gun. They didn’t typically use guns, the noise drew zombies, so Jasper had completely forgotten about them. Clearly, Robert hadn’t. “No, fuck you. We suffered a loss. We keep going. We fight on. You are a chickenshit little bitch. Knew I shouldn’t have let a civilian in. Now, get down on your knees.”
Robert had the advantage. Nobody else had a gun on them. Jasper went to his knees. Robert threw him a pair of cuffs and told him to put them on. A bunch of Roberts men came in to check out the commotion. Robert pointed at Jasper and his group, “Arrest them”.
The newcomers snapped to it, grabbing the six of them. That was a problem. When one of them tried to grab Jasper Snow grabbed him, shaking the man with his powerful jaws, pulling him to the ground. Robert kicked the big dog in the ribs, sending him to the ground. Snow tried to leap at him, Robert levelled his gun at the big dog’s head. He fired, catching Snow between the eyes. Jasper gasped, something broke inside him, leaving him more animal than human. He jumped to his feet and rushed Robert, slamming his body into the larger man. He had the cuffs on his right wrist, but the soldiers hadn’t put them on the left yet. He started smashing Robert in the face with his right hand, the left cuff wrapped around it. He hit again, and again, and again. His vision was pure red, anger taking over completely. He felt arms wrapping around him, pulling him back. He was driven to the ground, the weight of three people on his back. He felt a hard impact to the side of his head and everything went black.
When the lights came back on for Jasper he was on his knees, hands bound and attached to the ground. He was on the wooden platform in the middle of the camp, leather gag in his mouth. He could see the rest of his group by the platform, hands and ankles bound. Snow’s corpse was also there, blood running through his white fur, eyes open and fixed. The few other surviving soldiers were watching, not really enough to form a crowd. Of the more than fifty soldiers that started the day out, there were only fifteen now, including Jasper and the other prisoners.
Jasper felt the leather whip hit his back. The pain was more than he could imagine. He felt his flesh part. The whip came down again. He screamed, as loud as he could. The gag prevented him from making a noise. The heavy piece of leather kept coming. He lost count after seven strokes, consciousness after twelve.
He woke up to water being splashed in his face. Robert was standing over him as he lay on the ground, fists balled at his sides, face full of anger. The men pulled him up and pushed him to the side. They pulled Jordan out next, stripped him to the waist and put him on the post. He got a total of five lashes, then they moved on. Each one was stripped to the waist and tied to the pole. Naomi was last. Robert had a strange light in his eyes. He didn’t stop at stripping her to the waist, instead stripping her naked and chaining her up. As he pulled her clothes off she stood, chin up, showing no hint of shame or embarrassment. When he finally got her stripped she looked him in the eye and spat. He backhanded her across the face and pushed the gag between her teeth. He pushed her slender naked body into a kneeling position in front of the post and chained her in place. The whole time she stayed rigid, forcing him to use his strength, to exert himself. She knew she wasn’t strong enough to stop him, but she didn’t give him a single inch. He whipped her, and her body shrugged with the blow, but she didn’t cry out. It wasn’t until the third lash that she tried to scream. He gave her eight. Afterwards, she stood and looked him in the eye, then she went over to Jasper and put her arms around him, soothing him as he lay on the ground sobbing.